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Peyton's Place: Hillis Caps Shocking Run By Topping Vick For Cover Of "Madden NFL 12"
Published April 28, 2011
A CINDERELLA STORY: EA Sports conducted the photo shoot this morning with Hillis on Military Island in Times Square, despite occasionally heavy rain, with the public release of the final cover art expected in mid-to-late May. Stevenson said the cover voting campaign represented the largest fan engagement program in the histories of both EA Sports and ESPN. "If Aaron Rodgers had won, we would have been happy, and frankly, that's who we probably would have picked anyway," Stevenson said. "But this is an underdog story, and instead of it being the obvious choice, it's the people's choice. We couldn't be happier. Cleveland got behind Hillis in a huge way and treated this like their Super Bowl." Stevenson added he isn't worried about the prospect of declining sales for "Madden NFL 12" due to Hillis' lack of standing as a household name, pointing to overall awareness of the game's Aug. 30 release that was boosted by the cover vote bracket. "We've already seen five times the media stories this year for this than we had last year with ['Madden NFL 11' cover athlete] Drew Brees," Stevenson said. "We've also had more than 30 million views on our Facebook page alone through this. We've seen the power of what can happen when you engage all 32 teams" (Fisher). ESPN's Michelle Beadle said to Hillis after the announcement was made yesterday, "The city of Cleveland basically put their entire lot of hopes and dreams into you. This is like their way of beating whatever curse it is that's taken over their sports" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 4/27).
FIGHT IN THE DAWG: Following the announcement that he would appear on the cover, Hillis said that he "was 'excited' and he didn't think he had a shot against Vick, whom he has 'always looked up to.'" Vick said that he "was happy for Hillis and was proud of how far he made it in the voting." He added, "My fans, they stuck in there. I made it this far and that’s a plus for me." Vick, who was "attempting to become the first player to appear on the Madden cover twice, also used the Internet to boost his candidacy, with his official website redirecting fans to the ESPN.com Madden vote" (ESPN.com, 4/27). ESPN.com's Jon Robinson wrote Hillis' victory "has to be one of the biggest surprises in 'Madden' cover history." Robinson: "Just goes to show why online voting is so fun to follow" (ESPN.com, 4/27). YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase wrote, "How did a guy who had 81 career carries prior to last season outlast a field of some of the NFL's biggest stars? The fact that he was the first white running back to rush for 1,000 yards didn't hurt, nor did the voting habits of a rabid Cleveland fanbase" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/27). Meanwhile, the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Lee Hawkins wrote under the header, "A Branding Blow For Michael Vick." The Eagles QB has a "way to go before totally regaining his mojo as a corporate sponsor if an online vote by video gamers is any indication" (WSJ.com, 4/27).