There's no denying the past couple generations of football fans have absorbed much of their knowledge of the sport by playing the John Madden video game because of its realism.
A tiny fraction of those fans actually make it to the NFL as players. Yet with all of the resources at their disposal -- coaches, scouting reports, game film -- video games remain an actual tool.
Buffalo Bills rookie running back C.J. Spiller, thrilled about his upcoming debut as a "Madden 11" character, would use the college version of the EA Sports video game to help prepare for upcoming opponents at Clemson.
"I liked to play 'NCAA [Football 10]' last year," Spiller told ESPN.com columnist Jon Robinson. "Every week I'd play against the opposing team and see what they liked to do. You get a good idea of what teams like to run on defense, what they might try to run on offense by playing the game."
As much as he loved to play "NCAA Football 10," Spiller said "it will be even cooler to see myself in 'Madden' because it will look like me; they'll actually say my name. As a kid, I was just playing games like 'Mario Kart' and 'Madden' and staying up late with my friends. We all did it for fun. I never thought that one day I'd actually be in 'Madden.' "
Spiller had lofty expectations for his Madden ratings. He said his target number was 97 for several categories, including speed, acceleration, catching and vision.
"I know I'll probably be disappointed, but I just wanted to throw those numbers out there," Spiller said. "Gives me something to shoot for this year. If I have a big year, they have to make me better in the game."
Turns out, the folks at EA Sports think rather highly of Spiller already. They shared Spiller's scores with Robinson: speed 95, acceleration 97, vision 73, catching 74.
Spiller will be a popular player for gamers. Those numbers would've made him one of Buffalo's fastest two players on "Madden 10." His speed would have been two ticks below Lee Evans, but his acceleration would have led the team.
If you're curious, here is how Spiller would have compared to other players on "Madden 10" in speed and acceleration:
Vikings receiver Percy Harvin: 97 speed, 98 acceleration.