Some of you will never understand how a man I've never met can mean so much to me. Growing up, sports was everything to me. I collected cards and autographs, played in every pickup game I could find and watched every game on TV. Anyone that's ever met me knows I am a fanatic for the New York Yankees and Oakland Raiders. Yankees won the AL pennant the year I was born, but the Raiders won the SUPERBOWL. So I love John Madden! Madden became the head coach of the Raiders in 1969 and led them a victory in Super Bowl XI in 1976, the year I was born. He would have been my hero if he had stopped there, but he went on to become the voice of NFL football for decades to come, and his name graced my favorite video game franchise of all time. Madden was the reason many people tuned into the big game each week, whether he was on ABC, NBC or FOX. His fear of flying and using the "Madden Cruiser" (a rock star style tour bus) to get to all the games just made him more lovable. I can't tell you how many great memories I have of watching games he called with my dad.

The Madden video game was not only fun but made the game way easier to understand. All of a sudden you knew every route the receiver ran and how to pick up a "Mike Blitz" all because the video game didn't dumb down the game play. I think I learned more about football on my Sega Genesis and Playstation then I ever did on the field. Happy Birthday, John Madden, and thank you for being a huge part of both the team and the game I have loved my whole life. I also want to thank you because I learned that a guy could just be himself and speak his mind and be a broadcaster.