Josh Allen thought back to his past not too long ago, back to when the Buffalo Bills quarterback could have never imagined what happened Wednesday becoming reality, when he was named as the cover athlete for the Madden NFL 24 video game.
Back in high school in Firebaugh, California, or even in college at the University of Wyoming -- nah, it wasn't something plausible. Let alone becoming the first Bills player to be selected as the main cover star.
"It's such a small group of people who have ever touched the face of Madden, so now to be on that list, it's very surreal. It's very humbling," Allen told ESPN. "To think about where I was not too long ago and coming out of high school with zero offers, going to junior college and have one offer, University of Wyoming of all places, and then fast-forward to now.
"I don't know if I would have believed you at that point, if you were to tell me in high school. It's so surreal. Madden has such a special place in my heart."
Allen grew up a Madden gamer -- he often would play as his childhood favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers, and would sometimes sub in his now-offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey for Jeff Garcia and Tim Rattay. Playing Madden is how he learned the fundamental basics of the game. Now, his face gracing that game will be one to teach the next generation of football players.
Other than last season, when John Madden was on the cover of all editions of the game as an homage to the death of the game's namesake and Hall of Fame football coach, quarterbacks have dominated the cover in recent years.
Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes were on the cover of Madden 22, Lamar Jackson on Madden 21, Mahomes on Madden 20 and Brady on Madden 18. The only non-quarterbacks in recent years were Antonio Brown in Madden 19 and retired receiver Terrell Owens was on the cover of the Madden 19 Hall of Fame edition.
Allen began last season as a 92 overall in Madden and got as high as a 96 before finishing the season as a 93. It was a good progression in the ratings from his first three seasons, when he started in the 70s, but he's hoping his initial rating is higher this year. Along with his overall, Allen said he would like to see his strength and break tackle ratings increase, knowing each attribute receiving a bump could raise his overall rating.
"I'm hoping it's above 92. I would assume it's going to be, but you never know," Allen said. "I'm an honest man. I'm a realistic man. I'm a logical man and I think it's going to be a little bit above 92, but until I get to that 99 club, I'll be working hard."
Allen began last season as the No. 4-rated quarterback in Madden. Last season's top quarterback at launch, Brady, has retired. No quarterbacks started last season in the 99 Club -- a 99 rating is the highest a player can have in the game -- after Mahomes had been there in Madden 22.
Allen, 27, completed 63.3% of his passes last season for 4,283 yards, 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also had 124 carries for 762 yards and seven touchdowns for the Bills. A two-time Pro Bowler, Allen has led the Bills to the playoffs the past four seasons and three straight divisional titles.
Now, he's the first Bills player to say he's also on the main cover of Madden as well.
"It's surreal for me," Allen said. "But I think Western New York and Bills Mafia is going to be super pumped about it. Validate maybe some of the respect that they feel they haven't gotten in a long time. I think they are going to be very pumped about the cover.
"It's going to be a very special Madden, I will say that."