Huskies gift players custom 'NCAA' covers

Washington football captains, including Jonathan Amosa, John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono, received a unique gift this year. Courtesy of Washington Athletics

When the people in charge of the University of Washington football program wanted to honor their 2012 captains with a year-end gift, they put themselves in their athletes' cleats and tried to think outside the box to come up with the coolest souvenir.

Then it hit them.

Forget outside the box and think about the box itself -- as in a video game box.

More specifically, what if they were able to design custom covers for all 35 of their captains throughout the season and place them on the cover of EA Sports’ "NCAA Football 13"?

“Our director of football operations wanted to do something different for our captains,” said Daniel Hour, the manager of new media and recruiting services for the University of Washington. “In the past, we’ve just given away a wood plaque with a picture on it, and it was kind of boring, and it’s pretty much the standard with every team I’ve ever been a part of. This year, we wanted to do something more fun.”

The idea started with a photo shoot that would go beyond the typical in-game shot the players were used to seeing on trophies, then quickly evolved into the more elaborate video game covers.

“We had just met with EA Sports a couple of weeks before this, and it got us thinking, What kid isn’t going to love being on the cover of their own game?” Hour said.

Hour and crew then contacted EA Sports, which not only provided the official cover template, but put them in touch with the actual manufacturer of "NCAA 13" in order to expertly place each athlete’s face on the cover of the game and inside the box on the disc itself. Throw in cardboard posters of each purple-and-gold-based cover for the captains and you have college football’s going away present of the year.

“The players loved them,” says Hour. “We even shrink-wrapped each game so it looked like it came right from the store. We didn’t know how they would turn out at first, but when we saw the finished product, we were all blown away.

“We kept thinking, How far should we go with this? But these guys have put their hearts and souls into the team, so anything we could do to make them feel good about their time here, we are going to go that extra mile. On the back of each box, we even removed all the fine print and placed their bios and stats in there, then we removed the 'E for Everyone' rating and placed the W in the box instead. We went all out with the details, so it was fun to watch each player get their box and realize there was more than just their picture in there. There were details on top of details and plenty of fun Easter eggs for them to find the deeper they got into their box. To see each player’s face when they opened it was really fun to watch. They all went crazy.”