From awarding victorious turkey legs to star players to being the voice of the NFL’s biggest Thanksgiving games in years, John Madden was synonymous with the holiday he loved so much.
The NFL is making this lasting tribute by honoring the late broadcaster by launching the “John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration” to begin the first Thanksgiving after his death last December.
“No one cared more or contributed more to our game than John Madden,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Honoring his memory and his impact on the NFL is important and Thanksgiving Day brings to life all the things that are important to John – family, football, food and entertainment.”
The league is planning the Thanksgiving tribute to Madden to be an annual event beginning Nov. 24, when there will be special segments on all three Madden-dedicated shows from CBS, Fox and NBC.
A recording of Madden discussing Thanksgiving and the holiday’s relationship to football will serve as an introduction to the day’s three games: Buffalo at Detroit on CBS, the Giants at Dallas on Fox and New England at Minnesota on NBC.
Madden worked for all three of these networks during a career that included 20 Thanksgiving games while working at CBS and Fox.
“There’s no place I’d rather be today on Thanksgiving than here, right now, at a football game,” Madden said during the 1997 Bears-Lions Thanksgiving game. there are just certain things that go together: turkey, family, tradition, football… And we have everything today.
Madden started the tradition of handing out a turkey leg to the star of the game starting in 1989 when Philadelphia’s Reggie White got it after a win over Dallas.
The following year, Madden gave the winning legs to Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman of Dallas and joked that he wished he had more for offensive linemen. A barbecue owner in Texas took up the challenge and created an artificial six-legged turkey.
For this year’s games, the “Madden Player of the Game” will receive a $10,000 donation made in their name by the NFL Foundation to the youth or high school football program of their choice.
There will also be “John Madden Thanksgiving” logos on the 25-yard lines and a sticker on the back of each helmet with an image of Madden with his fist in the air.
New York Post