Marcus Allen talks 'NCAA 13,' USC

Gamers can play as Marcus Allen, or a host of other Heisman Trophy winners, in "NCAA 13." Courtesy of EA Sports

“NCAA Football 13” enables gamers to take some of the greatest Heisman winners of all time and bring them back for one more shot at glory.

Best part is, you can even take someone like Tim Tebow and mess with history (and historical rivalries) by inserting him into Florida State’s lineup, or see how Barry Sanders would do teamed with his son in Stanford’s backfield.

That’s right, it’s the best players from yesteryear, recruited to any current team in the game as fans attempt to exceed the stats that turned stars like Doug Flutie and Herschel Walker into college football legends (not to mention capture another Heisman).

Marcus Allen is one of the superstars gamers can control, but when I ask him what school he’d like me to put him on for his virtual career, he says he still only has eyes for USC.

“I’m stuck on one school, and that’s in Southern California,” he tells me with a laugh as we talk football and video games at a recent EA Sports event in Chicago. “If I was the running back with the current players, it’s over, dude. You have Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee, Robert Woods … I think you have a team with the best skill position players in the nation, and I only add to the mix.

“If you’re going to play the game as me, put me on USC and see what happens. I think you’ll like the results.”

ESPN Playbook: What advice would you give a freshman Marcus Allen about what it takes to win the Heisman and have a successful college career?

Marcus Allen: Come in with lots of determination, be a visionary, and think outside the box. I thought about gaining 2,000 yards and ended up doing it, and it hadn’t been done before. Just work hard, that’s the main thing and really what it all comes down to.

When playing “NCAA Football 13” as you, I need to try and match the stats from your Heisman campaign. Which of these numbers will be the most difficult for me to accomplish?

If you can gain 2,342 yards, essentially, you’re going to win every award. [laughs]

One cool thing they have in the game for the legends like yourself is hitting a button to play in slow motion, simulating you running while in the zone. What does that experience feel like in real life?

I know something about that, and it’s almost like time travel. Everything is like a still painting. You’re running at warp speed and everyone else is running in super slow-mo. It’s the strangest thing, and it’s almost metaphysical. Once you get there, you want to stay there and you never want to leave.

How many times in your career did this happen to you?

A few times, and when you get there, it doesn’t even matter how many people are on the field. They can’t stop you. It doesn’t matter what they do to attack you, you’re just able to do things, and again, it’s almost metaphysical. Everything is so instinctive, and if anyone ever asks how you did that, the only answer is, “I don’t know.” It just happens. That’s what the zone is all about.

You always had an amazing knack to get in the end zone, whether you were flying over the pile or diving down low between bodies. What is it about you where you were so money at the goal line while so many other backs fail in those types of situations?

I wanted to score, my job was to score, and I always say, there are two types of players: Those who know and those who don’t know, and I always knew everything that was in front of me. There are only two types of defenses at the goal line, the 5-3 and the 6-2. I knew what the defensive players were doing, what they were supposed to be doing, and I knew what all of my guys were doing on every single play. So I knew what to anticipate before the play even started.

Where would you rate winning the Heisman in terms of career accomplishments? Is it better than winning the Super Bowl?

Hall of Fame is the ultimate. Heisman is obviously the ultimate in college. To be seen as one of the greatest college football players ever is one thing, but then again, there are a lot of Heisman winners that didn’t go on to have a good pro career, so when you make it to the Hall of Fame, that really puts everything into perspective and illustrates your body of work as outstanding. You can have one great campaign in college and win the award and then never do anything else in your career. All the awards are important, but Hall of Fame means the most.

When I was playing “NCAA 13” as you, I unlocked some cool videos where you talk about the differences between when you played at USC and today’s more pass-happy brand of football. How many yards would you have run for in the spread formation?

What we usually had to do is run the ball nine on seven. We were running in a phone booth. But now everything is spread out. They have smaller players on the field in order to cover a greater distance on defense, so that gives you smaller players trying to tackle you as you run through holes that are already there. It’s a little tougher to run in that phone booth. The game always goes through an evolution, and they’re throwing the ball all over the place right now, and running is secondary. When I played, running was the most important thing, and then you passed off of the run.

You have a pretty great history in the world of video games, from “Tecmo Bowl” to coming back as a legend in “NCAA Football 13.” Do fans ever talk to you about your character in the game?

Yeah, and I hear I was pretty good back then in “Tecmo Bowl.” [laughs] “Tecmo Bowl” is bringing me way back, but I like that. It’s fun. I like looking through the archives, and it’s cool to know that you were a part of history. It was a different era, but it shows I have longevity.

And now kids today, who might have never seen you play in real life, are going to be playing as you in the new game.

That’s right, and one thing I know, they’ll score a lot of touchdowns.