John Madden, the exuberant former NFL broadcaster and beloved ex-coach of the Oakland Raiders whose name later became synonymous with a top-selling video game, has died. He was 85.
“On behalf of the entire NFL family, we extend our condolences to Virginia, Mike, Joe and their families,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement announcing Madden's death.
“We all know him as the Hall of Fame coach of the Oakland Raiders and broadcaster who worked for every major network, but more than anything, he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather."
“Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football. He was an incredible sounding board to me and so many others. There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today.”
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Madden brought a new level of personality to both the NFL sideline and the broadcasting booth, with his animated verbal sound effects – “Boom!” – and simple yet colorful breakdowns of the action on the field.
Madden never got the chance to play in the National Football League because of injuries, but in 1969 at age 32, he became the league’s youngest at the time to be hired as a head coach when Al Davis put him at the helm of the Raiders.
For Davis, it was a leap of faith to tap Madden. The two worked hand in hand, building a powerhouse.
Madden retired in 1979 after coaching the Oakland Raiders for 10 years and one Super Bowl title. His .739 winning percentage is second to Vince Lombardi among those who have coached in at least 140 regular-season and playoff games.
A couple of years later, Madden found his true calling as a color analyst with CBS. He went on to work for the other three major networks, winning 16 Emmys altogether, before retiring after 30 years in the broadcast booth.
Madden’s aversion to flying meant that he had to travel around the country in a customized coach-bus, which was dubbed “the Madden Cruiser.”
His name became perhaps most famous in the video game industry after Electronic Arts came out with its “Madden NFL” series, for which he also lends his voice. The game has sold more than 250 million copies worldwide to the tune of $4 billion.
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John Earl Madden was born April 10, 1936, in Austin, Minnesota, and his family soon moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, settling in Daly City. He attended Jefferson High School, where he was a standout football player.
He continued his education and football career at Cal Poly, and in 1958 was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. But fate intervened when Madden suffered a knee injury in training camp, and the rest as they say is history.
Madden lived in Pleasanton, Calif. during retirement and, until his final days, he continued to be a community pillar. His annual bocce ball tournament was always filled with smiles and big names and always came up huge with charity donations.
“It is fun, and the camaraderie, just seeing the people, friends, old players and all that,” Madden once said of the bocce ball event. “And the other part is the charity piece. We’re doing some good, we’re raising money.”
Madden is survived by his wife Virginia and two sons, Joseph and Michael.
On Christmas day, Madden was the subject of a 90-minute documentary on Fox, featuring an extensive interview with the 85-year-old Madden and also included his wife, Virginia, and sons Joe and Mike. It also included Lawrence Taylor, Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Goodell among the 38 people interviewed.
For the documentary, Goodell said “John Madden is to the NFL what Elvis Presley is to rock-and-roll. He’s the king.”
The Associated Press and NBC Bay Area contributed to this report