Their games are watched by millions of fans around the country and media outlets follow their actions closely off the field. But the members of the Michigan football team are still just like other college students – they put their pants on one leg at a time and play plenty of video games. Their game of choice: Madden 2003 for PlayStation2.
Madden 2003 is the latest in a long line of games from the popular NFL series created by EA Sports. The game features every NFL team, team-specific playbooks and a franchise mode where players can guide their team for 30 seasons. But where the Michigan players thrive is in the simple head-to-head matchups.
Just like real life, home-field advantage plays a big part in victories and losses. The most intimidating arena is at Victor Hobson and Cato June’s apartment, dubbed “The Stadium,” where Hobson turns up the surround sound when his opponent has the ball and lets his pit bull run around.
“It is the most hostile place to play,” receiver Ron Bellamy said.
As if the added crowd noise and a pit bull weren’t enough, aiding Hobson is June, who will get behind Hobson’s opponent and try to distract him by whispering in his ear.
The players have a rankings system similar to the BCS, based on wins and losses and, of course, strength of schedule. At the top of the rankings sit Hobson, June and linebacker Roy Manning, who is the clear-cut No. 1.
“Roy is the best player. He has that time to play. He is out for the year so all he does is play video games! That’s why he is the best right now,” Bellamy said.
Bellamy says Manning has committed one or two cardinal sins to reach the top.
“He goes on the Internet to get cheat codes and he looks at my plays when I call them too,” Bellamy said.
Bellamy is placed behind those three, mostly due to strength of schedule.
“Those guys keep throwing me down, they say I haven’t played anyone yet. I beat up on Tyrece (Butler). They say Tyrece is garbage,” Bellamy said.
The players aren’t afraid to take strategies from their opponents. After Bellamy, a Louisiana native, defeated Carl Diggs, Diggs started to play with Bellamy’s New Orleans Saints but utilized the team in a different way. Whereas the passing-oriented Bellamy will immediately go to a five-wide set, Diggs – like a typical Michigan man – likes to pound the defense.
“I’ll line up in goalline at the 50-yard line,” Diggs said.
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr isn’t familiar with Madden 2003, but he knows NCAA Football 2003 – Madden’s college counterpart – in which Carr was filmed saying EA Sports’ slogan, “If it’s in the game, it’s in the game,” for one of the many introductions to the game.
Carr doesn’t like that video games can overwhelm his players, but understands the attraction – in part from his own experience.
“The challenge is being able to enjoy it and have fun with it, but not let it consume you, to not let it take away from going to class or studying,” Carr said. “There is always something out there to distract you, and when I was a kid it was pinball machines.”