Play “Madden NFL 13” and you have the chance to draft a rookie version of Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin.
So I ask “The Playmaker”: If he could do it all over again, what advice would he give a rookie Irvin before heading into the NFL?
“I would tell a young me that at this level, you can’t win games all by yourself; football is a team sport,” he tells me as we talk football and “Madden” at a recent EA Sports event in Chicago. “When I first came into the league, I thought it was going to be easy. I thought when Dallas drafted me, we were immediately going to the Super Bowl and we were winning everything. Coming from Miami, I lost two or three games in three years, then I get to Dallas and the first game we play, we got our heads kicked in. Second game? We got our heads kicked in. I couldn’t understand how we were losing when I was out on the field.
“That’s when I realized, you can’t do it by yourself. Then we got Troy and Emmitt and things started working out, but that’s the biggest thing young players need to understand. You need teammates in the NFL. This is not Little League where you can just go out and run things.”
ESPN Playbook: When I draft you in “Madden NFL 13,” I can pick you for any team. If I could put a rookie Michael Irvin on any current roster, where would you like to play?
Michael Irvin: Before I was drafted in real life, being from Miami, I wish I could’ve played with Dan Marino and the Dolphins. I used to hang out with Mark Duper and Mark Clayton when I was at the University of Miami, and I thought I could’ve been that big receiver for them.
If I could join any current team, put me with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay. I’d go off in that offense with Rodgers. The other quarterback I’d like to play with is Tom Brady. Only problem is, both of those places get pretty cold. [Laughs] I love the way those guys throw the ball.
Other legends in “Madden” this year include Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders. Do you think you would have gotten that last ring if Deion would’ve stayed in San Francisco and never joined the Cowboys? He really seemed to swing the balance of power.
Listen, we were getting rings long before Deion went anywhere. I think that no-pass interference call and the three turnovers we gave up at the beginning of that game swung the balance of power for that playoff game. If we would’ve come back and won that game, there would’ve been no balance of power swung. Trust me, now. We spotted them 21 and closed the gap. I don’t think anyone could’ve spotted us 21 and closed the gap.
Did you used to play “Madden” back in the day?
I played “Madden” all the time, especially back when I was still in the league. If Dallas was about to play Chicago, I’d play against the Bears in “Madden” and I’d sit there and throw the ball to me every time. Every guy in the National Football League does that. I guarantee it. Without even asking or taking a poll, every guy in the NFL plays “Madden,” and they sit there and make themselves a star, whether they really are one or not. And the great thing about the game is, it keeps us relevant. I run into kids all the time and they’re like, “Hey, you’re that football player from the movie, ‘The Longest Yard.’ I’m like, ‘No, no, I’m a real football player who did a movie.’ [Laughs] But now with “Madden” and this legends program, it makes us important in their eyes because you have to earn these legends. It makes you want to research the legends you’re playing as, and it introduces us to this younger audience, who never saw us play in real life. That’s how I think about it. I want these kids to want to be that Michael Irvin guy from Dallas. That Michael Irvin guy is a 99, I need to have him on my team. That’s cool.
Another big receiver, Calvin Johnson, is going to be on the cover this year. Do you believe in the “Madden” Curse?
I’m a spiritual man, and the Bible tells me: “As a man thinketh, so is he.” There’s a financial term called the expectancy theory, where we’re expecting a recession, we’re expecting it and expecting it for so long, that we all hold on to our money and we get that recession. Same thing for the “Madden” Curse. Calvin just needs to go out there and play the game and play hard. I don’t believe in curses. Marshall Faulk was on the cover twice and he’s still moving. Trust me, Calvin Johnson is a bad man. He’ll be fine.
How would you compare Calvin Johnson and his skill set to big receivers like yourself?
Calvin Johnson is taking things to a whole different level, but some of that is because of the different rules. I was a big receiver, but I was still required to run routes. Now they’re running to areas and throwing the ball up for grabs. There are less routes due to the defensive calls that are being made. We had a lot more one-on-one bouts. We had Michael Irvin versus Darrell Green or Michael Irvin versus Deion Sanders. They don’t have one-on-one, man versus man. Now it’s about scheme versus scheme. Who is the big wide receiver versus defensive back match-up today? It’s only Darrelle Revis and whoever he plays. There are no other cornerbacks who play like that. It’s a different league, but Calvin is a beast.
What do you think your stats would’ve looked like if you didn’t have to worry about the safety flying over and trying to take your head off?
That’s another thing. I believe that courage, courage is a hell of a trait, and with the new rules, they’ve removed some of the courage out of the game. People used to say to me, “Michael is fearless.” I’m not fearless. Everybody has fear, we’re human, we all have fear, but courage says that I have the ability to overcome my fear. But now you don’t have to worry about that -- boom, boom -- I was worried about it, but I overcame it with courage. They’ve removed the courage out of the game. Still a great game, but the courage has been removed.