NFL legend John Madden was an icon as a coach, broadcaster, and the name behind the most popular video game ever created.
His passing on Tuesday at the age of 85 was felt by millions of fans of all his life’s work. He leaves an incredible legacy and would be included in the Mount Rushmore of the most influential personalities who helped turn the NFL into what it is today.
For all the success Madden has achieved in the past half-century, he had an opportunity to have the kind of wealth that is usually reserved for the men who own NFL franchises.
In 1988, the original video game featuring Madden called “John Madden Football” was developed by Electronic Arts. It was created for Apple II computers, and it had moderate success.
Shortly after that, EA Sports founder Trip Hawkins invited Madden to become more involved with the game by purchasing stock in EA Sports. He told the former Raiders coach he could “have all the stock you want.”
Madden asked Hawkins to define the word “have,” Hawkins told Madden he would have to buy the stock, but Madden wanted no part of that, according to an ESPN “Outside the Lines” story. Here’s the quote from Madden.
“Hell, I’m just a football coach.I pointed with my finger, all knowing, and said, ‘I gave you my time. I’m not giving you my money.’ I showed him!”
Well, from 1989 to 1999, EA’s stock price went from $7.50 to $70. It became one of the top game development companies in the world and has sold over 130 million games.
Madden games alone have accounted for $4 billion in sales. To put that in perspective, EA Sports’ FIFA is their only other sports game that has eclipsed $100 million in sales.
Another interesting side note is Madden was not EA’s first choice to be the face of their football game. They initially tried to get Jon Montana, but he had a deal in place at the time with Atari.
Cal University coach Joe Kapp was their second choice, but he wanted royalties.
They “settled” on Madden, a brilliant choice.
By the way, The EA stock price today is $132.68.