Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Cal Poly student-athlete John Madden unexpectedly passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021 at the age of 85.
Known for his championship career as head football coach for the Oakland Raiders and broadcasting style that brightened the television sets of millions during football season, football fans remembered the legacy of Madden across the world on Tuesday.
“Few individuals meant as much to the growth and popularity of professional football as Coach Madden, whose impact on the game both on and off the field was immeasurable,” the Oakland Raiders stated.
Madden attended Cal Poly from 1957-59, where he played football and baseball for the Mustangs while earning a Bachelor of Science degree. He then became the head coach of the Oakland Raiders for a decade before transitioning into the broadcast booth, where he would call NFL games for 29 years. He even took part in creating the “Madden” video game.
During his two-year tenure at Cal Poly, Madden would start on the offensive and defensive lines. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound lineman was a dominating force between the hash marks. The Mustangs boasted a 17-2 record with Madden and outscored opponents 531 to 168. Madden was named to the All-Conference team during the 1957 season. To go along with his achievements on the football field, he also played catcher on the 1958 Cal Poly baseball team.
In 1958, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Madden, but he was never able to play as an injury to his knee during spring camp made him physically unfit. Finished with playing, Madden returned to Cal Poly to earn his Master of Arts degree and begin his legendary coaching career as an assistant coach for Allan Hancock College in 1960.
Shortly after he started coaching, Madden became the defensive coordinator at San Diego State University. He coached the Aztecs from 1964-66 and caught the eye of Raiders owner Al Davis, who brought Madden aboard the coaching staff as an assistant in 1967. Just two years later, Davis appointed Madden as head football coach at 32 years old, which made him the youngest head coach in NFL history at the time.
The Oakland Raiders flourished under Madden’s leadership, compiling a record of 103-32-7 in the regular season. The Raiders made it to seven American Football Conference championship games and won Super Bowl XI in 1976 during his 11 years at the helm. Madden’s 103 wins are the most in Raiders franchise history and the .759 winning percentage is the best amongst all NFL coaches with more than 100 games. His illustrious professional career was cemented in 2006 when he entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After finishing his coaching career, Madden stepped into the booth as a color commentator for all four major television networks from 1979-2008. The booming-voiced Madden quickly became a fan favorite for his flamboyant personality, simplification of the game and use of the Telestrator. Madden would become famous for his overdrawn and messy illustrations of the play at hand.
He received 16 Outstanding Sports Personality/Analyst Emmy Awards, the American Sportscasters Association Sports Personality of the Year in 1985 and 1992 and became the first NFL analyst to receive the Touchdown Club of America’s prestigious Golden Mike Award in 1982.
However, for the younger generation who was not able to watch Madden strut the sidelines or appear on screen, his legacy lives within the “Madden” video game. The game, which first hit the shelves in 1988, brought the NFL to gaming consoles and allows people to play with their favorite players. Since its conception, “Madden” has released a new issue every year.
“John Madden is a true Mustang, a legendary role model for us all,” Cal Poly president Jeff Armstrong said. “Whether on the field, as a coach, a commentator or a husband, father and grandfather to his family. May he always lead the way and ‘Ride High’ among the Mustang family for generations to come.”