For over 30 years I have been an avid fan of American Football. Truth be told, I learned most of what I now know about it from playing a video game based on it. In fact, I can remember how exciting it was in 1988 when the first computer version of a football game based on actual real life players became available for play on Commodore 64 home PCs.
The computer game was initially called John Madden Football. Eponymously named after a former coach of the Oakland Raiders. John Madden was a colorful, and somewhat bombastic, character in American Football at that time. He was perhaps best known for excitedly shouting key phrases like "Boom" and "Bap" when describing the play on the field during television broadcasts.
As a broadcast color commentator, Madden was also an early adopter of technology. He single-handedly made the telestrator a household word. A combination of the words television and illustrator, the telestrator is a device which enables a person to use a specialized pen to draw lines over video images. A very powerful tool for a former coach trying to explain to an enthralled viewing public how a 3-4 blitz package might affect a rookie quarterback during the game.
I have to admit, I was instantly hooked when I first saw Madden draw yellow lines showing the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line creating key blocks to spring running back Emmett Smith into the secondary. As a young kid, I didn't know much about the strategy of football at that time other than to get the ball into the end-zone. Madden, and his video game empire changed all of that.
Like myself, the down-to-earth Madden showed millions of Americans the how and why of the "Xs and Os" that underpin the tactics used in every play of professional football. Most importantly, he did it in a very conversational way. He often employed humor, homespun anecdotes, and his personal knowledge of the players to convey otherwise complicated rules and plays to the audience in easy to digest nuggets.
Back to how does a 46 year-old man end up buying a video game? In the early 90's there was little that actually resembled real players in the earliest games. The graphics consisted mainly of a bunch of crudely drawn representations of individual players. The code writers used pixelated icons with the players' last names highlighted underneath them as they moved across a static green football field. Things sure have changed since then!
Since the game's inception, each year, the John Madden Football software developers would sharpen the graphics and resolution just enough to keep rabid fans buying their software. Today, Madden 16 actually uses digital face-mapping technology so vivid that you can actually see the tattoos covering Wide-receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s arms, and the perpetual scowl that always seems to adorn Quarterback Andrew Luck's face. Seriously, the game is a sumptuous treat for the eyes if you have an HD television.
One of the best thing about the Madden games over the years has been the franchise's fervent dedication to football heritage. The game's designers have painstaking created players from every year of the Modern Superbowl era. We're talking about players that once played in the first Superbowl back in 1967! You can play with Football legends like Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Micheal Irvin, Brett Farve, and etcetera. It truly is amazing how much historically accurate statistical data goes into creating this software.
One of my favorite features of the game is that it will allow you to create a team using many of the best players of all time. However, many of these players share the same jersey numbers. Without getting too complicated, the rules of American Pro Football are extremely strict when it comes to which numbers players in certain position are allowed to wear on their jerseys. Suffice it to say the numbers must be between 1-99, and no two players can sport the same numbers. The computer will automatically reassign available numbers to players on your team using legally allowed numbers if a numbers conflict should arise.
Naturally, this can cause some consternation for avid fans of certain players. Imagine Payton Manning without his venerated number 18, or Joe Montana sporting a number other than 16. That is why I have endeavored to create a jersey numbering convention that I believe most die-hard fans can use to justify manually editing a player's number in the game. Yes, the game is so advanced it allows you to do that.
Please remember the following is just my personal guide. You can use it or alter it as you like. I present this to you just as a suggestion:
|UNIFORM NUMBER||POSITION||NAMESAKE HERO||RATIONALE|
|The top performing walk-on at
Texas A&M University will often be issued number 12, in reference to
their 12th Man tradition
The number 12 is also prestigious at the University of Alabama. It is usually reserved for top quarterbacks
|20||HB||Barry Sanders||This number should be reserved for only the quickest and most elusive halfback. Why? Because Barry Sanders, that's why.|
|This number should be reserved for only the best Cornerback.|
|22||HB||Emmitt Smith||Reserved for small, but hardy running backs|
|24||CB||Champ Bailey||3rd best Cornerback|
|26||CB||Rod Woodson||2nd best Cornerback|
|27||CB||Steve Atwater||4th best Cornerback|
|Reserved for larger, bruising types of running backs|
|35||CB||Aeneas Williams||5th best Cornerback|
|36||HB||Jerome Bettis||Reserved for the biggest starting halfback|
|Reserved for larger running backs that can also catch the ball|
|42||FS||Ronnie Lott||Best Free Safety|
|43||SS||Troy Polamalu||Best Strong Safety|
|44||FB||John Riggins||Best Fullback|
|48||FB||Daryl Johnston||2nd best Fullback|
|50||MLB||Mike Singletary||3rd Best Middle Linebacker|
|52||MLB||Ray Lewis||2nd Best Middle Linebacker|
|55||MLB||Junior Seau||Best Middle Linebacker|
|56||ROLB||Lawrence Taylor||Best OLB against the run. "Strongside linebacker" or "SAM"|
|Best OLB against the pass. "Weakside Linebacker" or "WILL" in a 4-3, or a "BUCK" in a 3-4 system. Usually the fastest LB in the corps.|
|63||LG||Gene Upshaw||Best Pass-blocking Offensive Guard. These guards will pull more traps and counter running plays so they must also be the more agile of the two guards|
|64||LG||Randall McDaniel||2nd best Pass-Blocking Offensive Guard.|
|68||RG||Will Shields||Best Run-Blocking Offensive Guard.|
|73||RG||Larry Allen||Best all-around Offensive Guard.|
|74||RT||Bruce Matthews||Best overall Offensive Lineman C/G/T|
|76||LT||Orlando Pace||2nd best Pass-blocking Offensive Guard.|
|77||RT||Willie Roaf||Best Run-Blocking Offensive Tackle.|
|78||LT||Anthony Munoz||Best Pass-Blocking Offensive Tackle.|
|79||RT||Erik Williams||2nd best Run-blocking OT. A Mauler.|
|2nd Best Wide-Receiver.|
|82||WR3||John Stallworth||3rd Best Wide-Receiver.|
|84||TE1||Shannon Sharpe||Best Receiving Tight-End.|
|Best Blocking Tight-End.|
|86||WR4||Hines Ward||Best blocking Wide-Receiver.|
|2nd best Receiving Tight End.|
|Best Catching Wide-Receiver.|
|Best Overall Defensive Pass Rusher.|
|93||DT||John Randle||Best Pass-Rushing Defensive Tackle.|
|94||RE||Charles Haley||Best Run-Stopping Defensive End.|
|95||DT||Richard Dent||Best Run-Stopping Defensive Tackle.|
|99||DT||Warren Sapp||Best Overall Defensive Tackle.|