Tim Tebow leads another comeback in Madden Bowl XVIII

CNN Wire Service

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow was involved in the big game in Indianapolis, where he helped his team perform another miraculous comeback in the fourth quarter with time running out.

But the action didn’t take place at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of Super Bowl XLVI. It was a virtual gridiron battle at EA Sports’ Madden Bowl XVIII played on Xbox 360s at the Bud Light Hotel.

Tebow was part of the three-member “Clutch Team,” which also featured New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his teammate and tight end, Jimmy Graham. The trio beat the “Rookie Team” 16-13 in a dramatic comeback, sending Justin Blackmon (wide receiver, Oklahoma State University), Robert Griffin III (quarterback, Baylor University), and LaMichael James (running back, University of Oregon) home without the coveted trophy.

Brees admitted that Tebow “brings the magic,” although in a twist, it was Brees who played quarterback during that final drive with Tebow playing wide receiver. Tebow, who was on the cover of EA Sports NCAA Football 11, said he was just happy to be part of the video game tournament.

“It’s humbling to be here with these other great athletes and football players, just to be around them, to be friends with them, to continue to build relationships is wonderful,” Tebow said. “And then all of the opportunities we have to be in the Madden game, to be in the Madden Bowl, it really is a privilege.”

Even veteran players like San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates are drawn to the virtual competition, which offers something much more important than that trophy.

“The Madden Bowl is popular because it’s still a competition,” Gates said. “We’re built on competition. Our characteristics are about competing and winning. When you come here, you get to see other players and enjoy the festivities. But in the back of everybody’s mind, you still want to win the Madden Bowl. Even if it’s not all over the news, you still want the bragging rights.”

Gates said he and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who won Madden Bowl XVI, spent time talking about this year’s competition while in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl last weekend.

“It’s something like the Super Bowl,” said Miami Dolphins wide receiver and Pro Bowl MVP Brandon Marshall. “A lot of guys take pride in their Madden game and wagers are made. And it’s always fun to watch.”

EA keeps NFL’s biggest names involved in the tournament, even after they hang up their cleats. The Madden Legends team featured Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Deion Sanders and Warren Sapp, who retired in 2008.

“When they came out with the four buttons on the front, that’s when I quit playing Madden,” said Sapp, laughing. “It was just too much. It was just too much.”

The competition, which Sapp said is a whole new brand from when he used to play in the NFL, was too much for this trio. But they enjoy the focus the video game puts on the sport they still love to watch.

With a constant influx of new talent, the rookies typically have an edge with video game skills, as many have been weaned on the intricate controllers that the Atari and Nintendo generation have had to learn. But just as fans see on the real field, nothing beats experience and football knowledge.

“Playing in the Madden Bowl is a tremendous experience,” said Houston Texans veteran running back Arian Foster, who played on the All-Madden Team in the tournament this year. “Guys come into the locker room and say, ‘Hey, I just got through killing with you in Madden.’ So it’s an awesome feeling and Madden helped me get the name that I have today. I appreciate that.”

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller came to the party to check out the high definition gridiron action, which has become “the game before the game” during Super Bowl week.

“It’s crazy to be in Madden,” said NFL rookie Miller. “That’s another dream. I always dreamed of playing in the NFL and to be in Madden is just amazing. I only play Madden, so it’s a big deal.”

Not everyone was happy with the outcome of Madden Bowl XVIII. Perhaps no player takes the video game tournament more seriously than Jones-Drew. He said he plays Madden every day and is constantly preparing himself for the competition. He wasn’t happy with the format change from player versus player to three-man teams last year.

“I can beat anyone here one-on-one, which is the way Madden is supposed to be played,” said Jones-Drew, who was part of the All-Madden Team with San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis and Foster.

As for Tebow, he doesn’t have as much time since going pro to play video games. But he is just as competitive as he is on the real field when it comes to Madden Bowl, as were his teammates.

“I enjoy playing Madden,” Tebow said. “I stay pretty busy, so it’s not like I can play it a lot. But I have a good time playing with my brothers and teammates and we get pretty competitive on it.”

That competitive nature has already started with Madden NFL 13. EA Sports announced at the Madden Bowl that 64 players — two players from each NFL team — will compete for the chance to be on the cover of the new game. Fans will have the final say once again, after picking Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis for this year’s game.

Can Tebow work his magic again and grace the cover of this August’s football game? Don’t count him out.