It’s a shame that many of the most interesting stories from the 2017 NFL season came from the losers in the league. Take the Jets, for example, who were destroyed by the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. We all know how that ended: New England took the game, and the Jets blew it by allowing a 99-yard touchdown pass for the game-winning score. But what wasn’t as well-known is what happened between the teams’ benches at halftime.

When he was in high school, Lamar Jackson could have written a whole essay on what it meant to be an outsider in high school sports. He was the only black quarterback to ever sign with the University of Louisville, and a former Degrassi star played for the team. He has dealt with racism in the NFL, and once had a tearful—but proud—moment on the field.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has become one of the most decorated players in the world. Not only was he the NFL MVP, but he even won the Heisman Trophy during his college career with the Louisville Cardinals. None of these performances brought Jackson to tears, however. One achievement, however, was quite different from the usual rewards most players receive.

Jackson cried because he was on the cover of Madden.

Many NFL stars have been on the cover of Madden

Madden is one of the most popular sports video games of the last three decades, and the player’s appearance on the cover was a major achievement.

A look at some of the stars of past and present game coverage, according to NFL.com:

  • 1988, 1991-2000: John Madden.
  • 2001: Eddie George.
  • 2002: Daunte Culpepper.
  • 2003: Marshall Falk.
  • 2004: Michael Vick.
  • 2005: Ray Lewis.
  • 2006: Donovan McNabb.
  • 2007: Sean Alexander
  • 2008: Vince Young
  • 2009: Brett Favre.
  • 2010: Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald
  • 2011: Drew Brees.
  • 2012: Peyton Hillis.
  • 2013: Calvin Johnson
  • 2014: Barry Sanders.
  • 2015: Richard Sherman
  • 2016: Odell Beckham Jr.
  • 2017 : Rob Gronkowski.
  • 2018 : Tom Brady.
  • 2019: Antonio Brown
  • 2020: Patrick Mahomes.
  • 2021: Lamar Jackson
  • 2022: Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes

It’s fair to say that there’s been no shortage of legends on Madden’s cover in recent decades, and Jackson was one of them.

Lamar Jackson cried when he saw his Madden 21 cover

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson celebrates a touchdown during the game against the New York Jets in Week 12. December 2019. | Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Madden selected Jackson as the cover athlete for Madden 21 after he dominated the Ravens’ roster throughout the 2019 season.

The cover, however, made Jackson cry.

They blew my cover prematurely, Jackson said in 2020, according to NBC Sports. I’m not crying for nothing. I didn’t cry when I won the Heisman, I didn’t cry when I won all those other awards. But when I saw the cover, it really brought tears to my eyes: What is it? This is unrealistic.

Players of Jackson’s generation likely played Madden throughout their youth and into adulthood. So being on the cover of a game they’ve played their whole lives must be a surreal moment. It certainly was for Jackson.

However, it is unlikely that the Madden star will be the last big prize of Jackson’s football career.

.

Jackson emerged as an absolute superstar during his college career at Louisville. In 2016, he took the football world by storm: He threw for 3,543 yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions and ran for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns. This performance earned him the Heisman Trophy.

He went on to dominate in 2017 with 3,660 yards, 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while running for 1,601 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Jackson’s size and playing style led to him being selected late in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but he proved to be a great pick for the Ravens. After playing seven games in his first year, Jackson accounted for 3,127 yards, 36 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2019. He also ran for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns, earning Pro Bowl, First-Team All-Pro and NFL MVP honors.

In 2020, Jackson threw 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions and ran for over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season.

Throughout his college and professional career, Jackson has established himself as a top athlete, and with the team surrounding him with the Ravens, he has a chance to be successful in the NFL for a very long time.

There are probably many more awards in the future for Jackson, so he’ll probably shed many more tears in the years to come.

statistics courtesy of Sports Reference and Pro Football Reference.

COMPARED TO: Baltimore Ravens reunite Lamar Jackson with his favorite high school receiver

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