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Gold Jacket Spotlight: One Man, Three Careers - John Madden

Gold Jacket Spotlight: One Man, Three Careers - John Madden

02/21/2021
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Depending on age, a football fan identifies John Madden as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, or John Madden as the Emmy Award-winning broadcaster or John Madden as the name and voice behind the video game that has entertained millions and introduced many to the sport he reveres.

“John has had three careers, and they’ve all been amazing,” said Al Michaels, the longtime broadcaster and John’s partner on both “Monday Night Football” on ABC and later “Sunday Night Football on NBC. “He could have gone to the Hall of Fame on one any of those levels.”

John did enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in the Class of 2006, and this week steps into the Gold Jacket Spotlight for another look at the career of a man who considered himself “the luckiest guy in the world” to have been involved in football his entire life.

The Philadelphia Eagles selected John in the 1958 NFL Draft, but he suffered a knee injury in training camp. While rehabbing, John began watching films with future Hall of Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. Those lessons were priceless, and when the injury proved to be career-ending, a new door opened.

A teacher at heart, John entered coaching. He rose through the ranks rapidly in the 1960s, from a community college in California to San Diego State, where he learned under Don Coryell, to an assistant coaching position with the Oakland Raiders by 1967. That season, the Raiders won the AFL title and reached Super Bowl II.

When the head coaching position became available after the following season, Al Davis selected John to lead the Raiders. Age 32 at the time of the announcement, he was the youngest head coach in pro football.

In John’s first year, the Raiders went 13-2-1 overall, losing the AFL Championship Game to the eventual World Champion Kansas City Chiefs. His teams reached the playoffs in eight of his 10 seasons, won Super Bowl XI to cap a 16-1 season in 1976 and never posted a losing record. He was the fastest NFL coach to 100 career victories, and his 75.9 winning percentage (103-32-7 record) ranks second among all coaches and first in the modern era.

After 10 seasons, though, John stepped away. He didn’t intend to enter broadcasting and even spurned an initial offer from CBS. A few weeks later he relented, however, “and I found I really liked it,” he said.

Fans loved it. Every “BOOM,” “DOINK” and doodle on the telestrator enhanced his connection with them. John eventually worked on all four major networks over a 30-year TV career.

And he still isn’t finished contributing to the game.

In 1984, EA Sports approached John about lending his expertise and voice to a new NFL football video game. Because he was so adamant “John Madden Football” be as realistic as possible, it took almost five years from idea to implementation. The game continues to climb to new heights in popularity and in sophistication. A few weeks ago, the 2021 Pro Bowl was played virtually – on “Madden NFL ’21” – with NFL players and celebrities competing on NFC (the winner) and AFC teams.

One man; three careers. Each hall of fame-worthy. John said in his Enshrinement speech that induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame was “the sweetest ride of them all.”

This week, he takes another ride – into the Gold Jacket Spotlight.

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