The Detroit Lions' coveted 6-foot-5 wide receiver -- No. 81 Calvin Johnson, a.k.a. Megatron -- will grace the cover of Madden NFL 13, which is currently slated to release on Aug. 28, 2012. Johnson beat out Cam Newton, the second-year Carolina Panthers quarterback, in a fan vote that culminated with an announcement on Wednesday's episode of ESPN's SportsNation program. Johnson won with 52 percent of the fan vote.
Johnson is coming off an incredible season. In 2011, Megatron caught 96 passes for 1,681 yards (a league-best) and 16 touchdowns. From a historical perspective, Johnson became the third player in NFL history to record at least 95 catches, 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns in a single season, joining Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and future HOFer Randy Moss.
In March, the No. 2 overall pick out of Georgia Tech signed an eight-year deal worth up to $132 million. It's well deserved: Johnson's incredible plays have helped turn around the Lions from a beyond-dismal 0-16 record in 2007 to a 10-6 record in 2011, including a playoff berth -- the team's first in 12 years.
Madden NFL 13's runner-up, former Heisman Trophy winner and AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton, had an impressive rookie year, despite the lockout marring preseason team workouts. The No. 1 overall pick in last year's NFL draft set a record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season by a quarterback (14). He also became the first player in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for another 500 yards in the same season -- rookie or otherwise.
While it's an honor for Megatron be chosen for the cover of the annual Madden NFL game, it's impossible to ignore The Madden Curse.
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I don't worry about it, Johnson said of the curse. All things come to an end.
Since 1999, when publisher Electronic Arts decided to use a professional athlete on the annual Madden NFL cover instead of John Madden himself, most of the chosen players went on to have unusually poor seasons -- sometimes careers -- often due to injury.
I don't know that we believe in the curse, said Chris Erb, EA Sports' director of marketing, back in 2008. The players don't believe in the curse. We've had a run of bad luck the last couple of years. But as Shaun (Alexander) said, 'Do you want to be hurt and on the cover, or just hurt.'
The famed Madden Curse has claimed many players' careers, at least temporarily: The list includes Barry Sanders, Daunte Culpepper, Marshall Faulk, Donovan McNabb, Shaun Alexander, and even the gunslinger himself, Brett Favre. Check out the slideshow above to learn a little more about how the Madden Curse affected these great players' careers.
The most recent victim of the Madden Curse is last year's honoree, Peyton Hillis (formerly) of the Cleveland Browns. Even though the running back said he wasn't afraid of the Madden jinx, the man who ran for 1,177 yards in 2010 missed six games the following year and only ran for a measly 587 yards.
Do you believe in the Madden Curse? Will it happen again to Megatron? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.