Illustration for article titled Curse Be Damned, Lamar Jackson Will Grace the Cover of Madden NFL 2021
Photo: Patrick Smith (Getty Images)

Remember Garrison Hearst?

In 1998, the two-time NFL Pro Bowler enjoyed a breakthrough season, exploding for nine touchdowns and over 2,000 yards from scrimmage for the 49ers. He was then named the first-ever cover athlete for the upcoming Madden NFL 99, only to suffer a gruesome ankle injury—the tissue and talus bone in his foot even died—against the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs.

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It would take several seasons for Hearst to return to the field and it birthed what’s become known as the Madden Curse: in which the NFL’s brightest stars suffer significant injuries, experience down years, or have their careers cut short after gracing the cover of Madden. And before you roll your eyes or call the curse “bullshit,” did you know that of the 22 players who’ve been named Madden cover athletes, that 16 of them were “cursed” with either bad play or nasty injuries after the game hit shelves? Even Patrick Mahomes—Madden 2020’s cover athlete and the future face of the NFL—missed time last season with a serious knee injury. Though the argument could be made that the Madden Curse is on the ropes after Mahomes’ Chiefs won the Super Bowl in February.

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At least that’s what Lamar Jackson, the NFL’s reigning MVP, thinks after announcing that he’ll be gracing the cover of Madden 2021—which apparently wasn’t supposed to leak yet.

“Patrick Mahomes is on the front and he won [Super Bowl] MVP,” Jackson told ESPN. “I want that curse. I hope that’s a curse.”

He then revealed that he’s dreamt of this moment since he was a child.

“It’s always been a dream of mine since I was a little kid, since I first started playing Madden,” Jackson said. “It’s dope. I have every Madden. To me, to be on the front of it, it’s a dream come true.”

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After showing flashes of his potential as a rookie, Jackson completely destroyed the league as a sophomore, becoming the first player in league history to collect over 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 yards rushing in the same season. He also scored an otherworldly 43 combined touchdowns, making his selection as the third-youngest player to ever win league MVP, not exactly a surprise.

But will he succumb to the Madden Curse? He’s more concerned about continuing to evolve as a player.

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“I got to win a playoff game before anything because I’m tired of that already,” he said. “Once I’m tired of something, I got to make it happen. That’s my goal right now.”

He also wouldn’t mind if the Ravens decide to ease his load.

“I doubt I’m going to be carrying the ball a lot going on further in the future because we have great running backs,” he added.

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I’d hate to see him go out like his teammate Robert Griffin III, so let us hope and pray he remains healthy and, more importantly, is even able to play next season—with or without fans.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.

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