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Cam Newton holds slim lead in 'Madden' cover vote

Cam Newton has clobbered every player on his way to the "Madden NFL 13" cover vote final four. So much so, that I just assumed he'd dispatch of hard-hitting linebacker Patrick Willis before the weekend and secure his plane tickets to the New York cover unveiling in a couple of weeks.

But not so fast.

I don't know if Cam's support is wavering or the Carolina faithful are all of a sudden worried about the dreaded "Madden" cover curse, but Willis shot out of the gates strong, and heading into the weekend, Newton holds only 52.8 percent of the vote.

That makes the next few days key in deciding this tight race as the lone defensive player left in the bracket tries to make a final push to pull off the biggest upset of the cover vote tournament so far.

Can Willis really beat Newton and advance to the cover vote finals in New York? Head to the official SportsNation "Madden NFL 13" bracket page now and let your voice be heard before it's too late.



Matt Kemp talks PlayStation, Dodgers

Matt Kemp sees himself in Sony's "MLB 12: The Show" and all he can do is grin.

"They have my batting stance down perfect. They have my swing. It's me in that game," Kemp tells me with a laugh. "And he's a pretty good looking dude ... at least I would say so."

And when Sony found out that Kemp and his Los Angeles crew of gamers have been playing "The Show" since the game hit last month, the company presented Kemp with his very own, customized PlayStation 3 that looks like it was made out of the slugger's wood bat, complete with baseball-themed controller, a new Vita, and a sweet PlayStation case that even features its own foul line.

"This thing is so pretty, I don't even want to take it out of the box," Kemp says, still in awe by the lavish gift. "It's wood grain with my signature on it. It's one of the coolest systems I've ever seen. This thing even has grass and fake dirt surrounding it. It's unbelievable."

Jon Robinson: Are you a big video game player?

Matt Kemp: I used to be bigger into playing, but I still play a little bit. It's tough during the season to find as much time as I want to play video games, and when I do get some free time, I like to sleep. But there are a lot of Dodgers who are into that new Vita system. They're playing "MLB 12: The Show" all the time. They're always playing against each other.

First time I went on "The Show," I couldn't believe how accurate they have everything. From the stadiums to all of the batting stances, it feels like you're actually watching a game.

Jon Robinson: Did you play a lot of the baseball video games as a kid?

Matt Kemp: I did, but my mom and my grandma used to make me go outside and play a lot. So I'd have to go over to my friend's house to play video games. If I was at my house, my parents and my grandparents made me go out and play, and I'm glad they did that because it helped make me who I am today, playing big league baseball, so I'm good for that.

But I remember how much I loved the Sega Genesis and "Sonic The Hedgehog" and Nintendo with "Super Mario Bros." Those were my games. My favorite game that I used to love was "NBA Jam." That was the Sega Genesis game I couldn't get enough of. With all the players jumping so high and doing flips and dunking, that was my game. "NBA Jam" was so dope. He's on fire! [Laughs.]

Jon Robinson: Speaking of "NBA Jam," Magic Johnson is now one of the owners of your Dodgers. How cool is that having someone you used to watch, and even played as in various video games, now owning your team?

Matt Kemp: I can't believe it. He's someone who is so well-known in L.A., everybody loves him out here, so for him to be part-owner of our team is unbelievable. To have him around the clubhouse makes it exciting.

Jon Robinson: Do you have a favorite Magic Johnson moment from when he was playing?

Matt Kemp: He was such an unbelievable player, he could do it all out there. I remember how he was this 6-9 point guard who could go out and do so many exciting things. He was an original. Magic's the man.

Jon Robinson: I'm actually from San Francisco, so I don't know if I should even be talking to you right now because of the rivalry.

Matt Kemp: It's all good, man. It's all love. We're going to beat ya'll this year, though. [Laughs.]

Jon Robinson: When it comes to Giants/Dodgers, is it still a big rivalry to the players?

Matt Kemp: Oh, definitely. It's always exciting to go to San Fran or for them to come to us and play. The fans love it. It's been a rivalry for years, so it's always exciting to play.

Jon Robinson: So if I pop in "MLB 12: The Show" right now and play as the Dodgers, what advice do you have for me to hit as you in the game?

Matt Kemp: Wait for the ball to get deep and drive the ball to right center. It's hard to hit on that game, but it's fun.

Jon Robinson: Is there a pitcher who you can't wait to hit against in "The Show" because he owns you in real life?

Matt Kemp: I'm not even going to tell you who gives me trouble pitching, because as soon as you write it down and they read it that will give them the edge next time I play against them. That's going to be my little secret.

Jon Robinson: How about the secret to the Dodgers' success this season. What's the key for you guys to win the West?

Matt Kemp: I think the key is scoring runs. We need to score runs for our pitching. We didn't really do a good job of that last year, so this year we definitely need to get some more run support for our starting pitchers and our bullpen and just go out there and ball-out, baby.

Jon Robinson: How about you? You had such a sensational season last year, do you feel pressure to try to top it? Do you set goals for yourself before the season?

Matt Kemp: I definitely set goals for myself. I just want to be a complete player and help my team win in any way I can. For me, that's being a leader on this team and drive in runs and do whatever it takes for my team to win.

Jon Robinson: What does it mean to you to be the face of the Dodgers, one of the most storied teams in the league?

Matt Kemp: Everything happened so fast. I just remember being a kid back in Oklahoma playing tee ball and thinking about being a professional baseball player but never knowing if that dream was going to come true. For my dream to actually come true is just such a blessing.

Jon Robinson: Did you have a favorite player as a kid?

Matt Kemp: My favorite player was Frank Thomas. I was a bigger kid growing up, and they used to call me "The Little Big Hurt." I had to represent for him. He even had his own video game back then, "Big Hurt Baseball." I remember how cool I used to think that game was and how I could play the game as him. Now to think kids are playing "MLB 12: The Show," and they're playing as me, like I said, it's just a dream come true.



'Madden' cover vote down to final four

With the "Madden NFL 13" cover vote down to the round of four, is it inevitable that we'll see a battle of Cam Newton versus Calvin Johnson in the finals?

Not so fast. While Cam and Megatron have been Nos. 1 and 2 in total votes since the competition began, they each face players who seem to be surging at the right time (and from teams with millions of faithful voters).

Only time will tell if the Packers and 49ers fans vote with their hearts and try to help Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Willis advance to the finals, or if an anti-curse vote from all four fan bases turns the final four into a free-for-all.

Here are my predictions:

(1) Cam Newton vs. (11) Patrick Willis

Willis is not only the lowest seed still left in the tournament, he's the only defensive player still standing. And while I would love to see Willis crushing a quarterback on the cover of "Madden 13" (complete with old-school ambulance), Newton is a beast in the fan vote so far, and I don't think Willis is going to be the one to stop him.

(1) Aaron Rodgers vs. (6) Calvin Johnson

Rodgers would've been the perfect cover athlete last year, but for "Madden 13" it seems like Megatron's vote to lose. Besides, "Madden" is historically dominated by big receivers out-jumping everyone for the ball, and I have a feeling Johnson is going to be an unstoppable force once "13" ships in late August.

Head to the official SportsNation "Madden 13" cover page to cast your vote for your favorite player (or player you're most hoping to curse).



Patrick Willis building momentum in 'Madden' cover vote

With the "Madden NFL 13" cover vote down to the Elite Eight, the closest battle is also the most voted on matchup of the round, and it's between Patrick Willis of the 49ers and Victor Cruz of the Super Bowl champion Giants.

And while Cruz has been receiving some of the highest vote totals of any player throughout the early eliminations, he finds himself falling behind Willis early in their head-to-head struggle, with Willis collecting 54 percent of the vote to date.

Could be that New York fans are finally voting with their brains and not their hearts, hoping to jinx their NFC rivals with the "Madden" cover curse. Then again, Willis has been such a beast in the polygonal football franchise for years, gamers might be paying back millions of Hit Sticks with votes, hoping to see the last remaining defensive player in the tournament finally get some glory.

Don't want to see Cruz eliminated? Ready to vote Willis through to the Final Four? Either way, head to the official SportsNation "Madden NFL 13" cover site now and cast your vote before time runs out on your favorite player.



'Madden 13' showcases Nike uniforms

When it comes to the secrecy surrounding what the new Nike uniforms will look like in "Madden NFL 13," the game's art director, Jean Adams, says the design team's studio was on CIA-type lockdown.

"We moved all of the people working on the Nike project into one room, and we even disabled the Internet connection in the room just to guarantee there would be no leaks," Adams explains to me over the phone as Nike unveiled the real NFL uniforms to the world on Tuesday. "I first saw these a few months ago, so it's great to finally be able to show what they will look like in the game."

Adams flew out to Portland to meet with the uniform designers, and was one of the first people outside of Nike to see the early prototypes. "I saw the generic uniform that all of the new NFL uniforms were going to spawn from," says Adams. "At that meeting, we didn't see the actual uniforms, but they gave us enough information so we could get started with the design in 'Madden 13.' Based off the initial designs, we were able to get the templates into the game, and then a few weeks after that, I met with the designers again and that's when I saw the final uniforms.

"That's when we were able to photograph all of the uniforms and get all of the pictures back to the artists at EA. It was all very hush-hush. It's probably the most secretive project I've been a part of since working at EA."

On top of the secret room and meetings, the producers of the game even had to make a separate build of the "Madden 13" preview code to limit access, blocking even other members of the "Madden" team from seeing some of the designs before they were announced. "That was the strangest part of the process for me," says Adams. "But if anything got out before the announcement, we wanted to make sure that the leak wasn't from us."

But now that Nike has finally unveiled the new look, Adams can't stop gushing about the cool details he notices upon closer inspection. "The material actually changes the colors for some of the teams," he says. "The Buccaneers' color shifts a little bit with the pants, and the Saints, they usually have gold, but the way the uniform is matted it changes the way it looks slightly. All of the cuts and designs are all very angular, and the stitching around the collar is very unique and will be really noticeable to a lot of the fans watching the games. There is also a new look to the pants where a lot of players are going to incorporate what looks like the Pro Combat-style pads to their thighs and knees, and that's very distinct.

"I think when people play 'Madden' and they zoom in, they are going to notice a lot of the cool little details, because everything from the stitching to the piping is different. The pants are different because they have a jersey mesh on the side, and they've never had that, so I think gamers are going to appreciate that we have all of the details right. We even have some of the details and jerseys Nike hasn't revealed just yet. There are a lot of great alternate uniforms this year that people are going to love. There are some big surprises that are coming with helmets and things like that, that people don't know about. I can't wait until they see it in the game."



'Madden' Cover Vote: The Elite Eight

And then there were eight.

One linebacker, one running back, two quarterbacks, three wide receivers and one tight end.

Patrick Willis has pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the "Madden" Cover Vote to date, advancing to the Elite Eight from the 11-seed. Both No. 1 seeds are still in the tournament (Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers), both No. 2 seeds remain unbeaten (Rob Gronkowski, Victor Cruz), and Larry Fitzgerald continues to stay alive in his quest to become the first-ever two-time "Madden" cover athlete.

Can Fitzgerald really pull this off? Let's take a look at how the round of eight matches stack up.

(1) Cam Newton vs. (4) Larry Fitzgerald

Newton continues to receive more votes than any other player in the tournament, and it's not even close. This is Newton's first tough test, however, and Fitzgerald has proven in his big wins over LeSean McCoy and Troy Polamalu that he has some serious fan support backing his candidacy. I'm still picking Newton to win it all, though, so I say he squeaks by Fitzgerald here and ends the receiver's dream/nightmare of the double cover/curse.

(11) Patrick Willis vs. (2) Victor Cruz

Willis is the only defensive player left in the tournament. Really? Out of eight players, only one on defense? I guess if any defender should win the cover, it's Willis, one of the all-time best "Madden" characters, and the player who has won me hundreds of games, thanks to the Hit Stick. Cruz is probably going to win this matchup, but I'm voting defense.

(1) Aaron Rodgers vs. (5) Ray Rice

I actually think Rice is going to pull off the upset here. Rice already beat Drew Brees, A.J. Green and T-Sizzle, but Rodgers is going to be a tough player to knock out of the tournament. Then again, Rice has already proven this year, with his win in the "NFL Blitz" cover vote, that Ravens fans come out in full force to support their star, and I think Packers fans are going to vote for Rice in an "avoid the curse" campaign, swaying things ultimately in Rice's favor.

(6) Calvin Johnson vs. (2) Rob Gronkowski

I expect this to be the closest vote in the Elite Eight. Both these players have been collecting huge numbers of votes in the early rounds, but I think Megatron is going to be the one who ultimately spikes Gronk. If we get Detroit on the "Madden" cover, can we get Eminem to do the game's soundtrack?

So what are you waiting for? Head to the official SportsNation home of the "Madden NFL 13" cover vote, and cast your vote today for your favorite player (or the player you're most hoping to curse).



Ray Rice takes late lead in 'Madden' vote

With only a day left in the "Madden NFL 13" round of 16 cover vote, Ray Rice has retaken the lead over Drew Brees in their back-and-forth matchup. Brees took a slight advantage into the weekend, but Ray Rice fans came out strong on Sunday, and now Rice has jumped in front of the Saints quarterback by a 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent margin. To break the numbers down even further, that's less than a two thousand vote lead heading into the final hours. Talk about going down to the wire.

In other Sweet 16 news, it looks like Arian Foster's string of upsets is about to come to an end. After taking out both Andre Johnson and Tim Tebow, Foster is now getting pummeled by Calvin Johnson, with Megatron collecting a whopping 73 percent of the vote. Cam Newton is still the only player getting more votes than Johnson, leading me to believe we are going to see the two young stars square off in the finals.

Another player who continues to draw big numbers is Rob Gronkowski. Gronk is doing whatever he can to help his own cause, including the creation of a new video where he spikes a melon to show what he'd do to his round of 16 opponent, Jared Allen, then in true gamer fashion, shouts, "Boomshackalacka!"

Looks like if anyone can take down Megatron in the right bracket, it's Gronk, especially if next round he makes some cool, smashing up Transformers video to boost his candidacy.

Another guy to watch out for is Aaron Rodgers. I thought he had a good shot at winning it all last year, but this year, his support actually seems to be stronger. Rodgers is destroying Marshawn Lynch right now, collecting 64 percent of the vote, and should make for tough competition as he faces the winner of the Ray Rice/Drew Brees battle in the Elite Eight.

Don't like the results so far? Head to the official SportsNation "Madden NFL 13" cover page and cast your vote before it's too late.



'NCAA Football 13': Sights and Sounds

Ever wonder why the crowd chants in EA's "NCAA Football" franchise always just sound like a bunch of guys yelling from a garage?

"That's because it was just a bunch of guys yelling from a garage," laughs Ben Haumiller, one of the producers of the game. And while that may have sounded fine a generation ago, every gamer out there has been hollering for an audio upgrade to the series for years.

"Everything from the chants and cheers to the way the announcers sound needed improvement," says Haumiller as he gave me an early demo of "NCAA Football 13." "Some of those chants were recorded back in 2003. So this year, we finally went in and did a major overhaul of the game's audio. We were able to adapt the technology the 'FIFA' team uses in their game, and it's made all the difference."

And Haumiller's right. He plays me a clip of the crowd chanting in "NCAA Football 12," then plays the same clip from "NCAA Football 13," and the staggering quality difference was like switching between Vanilla Ice and Eminem.

One of the main reasons is the EA Sports tech team's ability to visit a variety of stadiums last year during games and record actual crowd chants, cheers, and jeers using new mics that are able to capture a richer, more dynamic sound and input it straight into the game.

On top of that, the team added all new commentary that now doesn't feature long robotic pauses or breaks between words and phrases. "We learned a lot from 'FIFA' and 'NHL' and even what 'Madden' did last year, and we were really able to step up our commentary," says Haumiller.

And this year, instead of just feeding the announce team of Kirk Herbstreit and Brad Nessler scripts to repeat based off what EA thinks they should say, now this year, they finally brought the announce team into the studio, told them the situation, and let them actually ad-lib to grab a much more authentic, natural reaction.

Adds Haumiller: "Inside their headphones, we had the crowd chants and fight songs playing, just like they would be during a game, and this made them feel like they were calling a real game, not just reading something we told them to say. These guys are better when they're improvising, and that's what you'll hear in this year's game."

In terms of new graphical upgrades, the EA Sports designers continue to try and implement every single uniform combination you might see on Saturday into the game.

"College football has become a fashion show with everybody trying to one-up each other," says Haumiller. From the variety of helmets now worn by Notre Dame, to the insane number of uniform combinations worn by Oregon, they're all in the game. "Oregon has lost their minds, but in a good way," says Haumiller. "We even have that chrome look they wore during the Rose Bowl. And after Oregon, now Oklahoma State has 11 alternates you can choose from in the game. There are just so many different combinations in the game, all of those people who love to switch things up will love it. We work with the apparel companies and the schools to not only get the uniforms you saw last year, but we work with them to get some of the uniforms they are about to debut this season into the game, so we actually debut the new looks and show them off in the game before anyone sees them in real life."

Additional graphical upgrades include improved blending and lighting, enabling you to actually see the progression from day to nigh on a play-by-play basis and not just have the sky change all of a sudden after the quarter or half. New rendering adds a motion blur to runners, giving ball carriers the appearance of being faster on the field. Stadium exteriors will be shown for the first time. There are new practice fields, new high school stadiums that will showcase different regions of the country, a new, emotion-based celebration system, as well as the addition of even more NCAA traditions and trademarks, including the USC Song Girls, and authentic trophies like the Paul Bunyon Axe.

"We have all of the different trophies in the game," says Haumiller. "We even have the Orange Bowl celebration where you'll see your player reach down, grab an orange and act like he's taking a bite out of it. We added a lot of really cool stuff this year. I think fans are really going to love it."

Top things off with a character straight out of EA's "Medal of Honor" series parachuting down into the stadium during the Army/Navy game, and you have some scenes that gamers are going to be talking about for a long time.

Adds Haumiller: "This year, we also tried out some new technology to scan and map stadiums down to pinpoint accuracy. We were able to go out and render North Texas and FAU down to the inch. This year was about proving the tech, and now that we've proven what the technology can do, you'll see as we move forward to Gen-4 (PlayStation 4, Xbox 720), that we'll go out and capture every stadium in the game to the exact measurements. I can't wait."



'Madden' Cover Vote: Sweet 16 update

Early numbers are in for the latest round of the "Madden NFL 13" cover vote, and there are a couple of surprises to report.

The closest race right now is Drew Brees versus Ray Rice. Rice took an early lead on Wednesday, but then Saints fans came out in full force Thursday night, and now Brees is up by the narrowest of margins -- 51 percent to 49 percent -- which translates to just a few thousand votes. I expect this one to come down to the final hours next week.

Another tight race is between Larry Fitzgerald and LeSean McCoy. After beating both Michael Vick and Reggie Bush convincingly, McCoy has fallen behind Fitzgerald by a few percentage points. If Philly fans want to push Shady through to the Elite Eight, they need to show up big this weekend, as the latest numbers show Fitzgerald holding 54 percent of the vote.

In the Battle of New York, Victor Cruz holds a commanding lead over Darrelle Revis, and with the numbers Cruz continues to put up round after round, the Giants receiver could end up being Cam Newton's biggest competition on the left side of the bracket.

Speaking of the left bracket, Patrick Willis looks to pull off the biggest upset of the tournament so far, as the 11 seed (who already upset both Vernon Davis and Matt Forte) is currently crushing former Madden Bowl champ, Maurice Jones-Drew. Will we finally see a defensive player appear solo on the cover? Hasn't happened since Ray Lewis introduced the Hit Stick back in "Madden NFL 2005" (arguably the best "Madden" of all time).

If anyone deserves the honor, it's Willis, the player who brings the Hit Stick with him on every play.

"When you're playing 'Madden,' people throw the ball over the middle too much. I want them to show people get a crushed collarbone or a crushed ankle or a crushed sternum or something," Willis told me during a recent interview. "I wish when you put a Hit Stick on someone, you could put them out of the game. I was playing the other day, and I was in a Cover 2 Man, and my homeboy was completing passes over my defenders every time. I just want to Hit Stick him and put him out of the game."

Sounds like it's time to bring back the old "Madden" ambulance and put it on the cover next to Willis. Talk about a box to remember.

Don't like the results? Head to the official SportsNation Madden Cover Vote page and cast your vote today to make a difference before time runs out on your favorite player.



Sheamus talks WrestleMania, 'WWE 12'

I asked THQ to simulate the upcoming Sheamus versus Daniel Bryan WrestleMania match, and after 50 "WWE 12" slugfests, Sheamus won 52 percent of the championship bouts thanks to a series of thunderous Brogue Kicks to Bryan's smug mug.

"Only 52 percent, fella?" Sheamus says after I tell him the results. "I think there must be something wrong with your Xbox. I think I should win 100 percent of the time."

And with Sheamus continuing to explode in popularity, both in the WWE ring and online in the latest WWE video game, the man who makes even mayonnaise seem colorful might be right.

In fact, when I asked THQ to pull the numbers for the past few months, gamers have used the Sheamus character across 303,654 online matches, making him one of the most popular superstars in the virtual ring.

"That's crazy," Sheamus says with a laugh. "The fact that I'm even in a video game blows me away, but 'WWE 12' is even more special to me because they have a whole storyline around Sheamus in the game. It's really, really cool. Being in a video game was one of my dreams; I just hope I can win some of those matches for people online. Just remember to use the Brogue Kick, and you should be fine."

Jon Robinson: So many characters seem to come and go in WWE. What do you attribute to your success and your sustainability as a performer so far?

Sheamus: Don't get me wrong, I've been lucky and I've been given some amazing opportunities, but this is something I've always wanted to do. I feel like a broken record sometimes, saying that this is all I ever wanted to do, but it's true. To be honest, though, the best thing that could've happened to me is when I was moved down on the card. When something like that happens to you, it reasserts your hunger and makes you realize that you can never take anything for granted. You can never be happy, you can never be satisfied with what you have. You always need to have that want to achieve more, and I definitely want that success.

Besides, having that pasty Irish tan has really helped me out. I stand out from the crowd. When I was a kid, I always had the red hair, the white skin and freckles. Back then, I wanted to look like everybody else, but now I realize that being different is definitely a major help.

Jon Robinson: I think you have the ability to become a great heel again with an all-new look. You can always disappear for a few months, go hang out with the cast of "Jersey Shore," and show up out of nowhere one night on SmackDown with tan skin and slicked back hair. People would freak out.

Sheamus: [laughs] It would be funny if I could show up with a tan, but honestly, I try to stay out of the sun as much as I can. I like that I can stand out from the crowd.

Jon Robinson: WrestleMania is this Sunday. As a fan, besides your match, of course, which bouts are you most looking forward to watching?

Sheamus: As a fan all my life, I can't wait to watch them all. I was a big fan of The Rock back home in Ireland, and he's just such a tremendous icon and a tremendous superstar that I can't wait to see what happens when he gets in the ring with John Cena. The Rock will always be remembered as a WWE legend, and John Cena has literally been pulling the WWE wagon for the last eight to 10 years. These are two superstars going head-to-head in a once-in-a-lifetime match, and I can guarantee you that every superstar in the back is going to be watching along with all of the fans at home. We can't wait to see what happens.

Then you have Triple H going up against the Undertaker in Hell in a Cell, with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. Hell in a Cell is a match Undertaker started, but Triple H has become a master in, and then when you add Shawn Michaels, the guy Undertaker retired, you have quite an exciting story. I thought the match Triple H had against the Undertaker last year was the best match I've ever seen in my life, and I think this one has the potential to be even better.

Add to that Chris Jericho versus CM Punk and Randy Orton versus Kane, and the show is stacked with some epic matches. I can't wait, and I'm so excited to be a part of WrestleMania 28 because it's going to be the best WrestleMania ever.

Jon Robinson: There are a lot of rumors going around about wrestlers being jealous of The Rock and hating on him for taking up the main event spot when he's not a full-time performer, and how he's not even talking to the other wrestlers backstage. What are your impressions of how The Rock has been behaving behind the scenes? Has he been cool to you?

Sheamus: Rock's been nothing but cool to me. I haven't said too much to him, we're all so busy backstage doing stuff for WrestleMania. But I'll be honest with you, Rock came over to me, shook my hand and introduced himself to me from day one. When I see him on Mondays, I ask him how he's doing, and he asks the same of me. I have no problem with him at all. He's been nothing but cool to me. I have no problem with The Rock. He's as cool as ice.

Jon Robinson: Plus, he's going to bring so many more eyeballs to WrestleMania; a guy like you, who maybe the older fans don't know too much about, can really make a name for yourself when Rock brings some of the people who maybe haven't been watching lately, back to WWE.

Sheamus: Absolutely, I think it's great. There are a lot of people who stopped watching after The Rock left, for whatever reason. Maybe they have different priorities now or have different interests, but The Rock has brought a huge amount of media to WrestleMania 28. Everybody wants to see The Rock versus John Cena, and I think it's great the way it's going to bring back some of those older fans, while at the same time, it's fresh and new to the current audience that we have. This match was announced a year ago, and that's a hard thing to do, to keep interest in a match throughout an entire year, but if anything, I think the match is gaining momentum by the day.

Jon Robinson: You were originally supposed to fight Daniel Bryan at last year's WrestleMania, but then you got bumped from the card. Are you excited to finally get out there and show what you guys can do?

Sheamus: Absolutely, it's poetic justice. That was an incredible low for me last year. I went from WrestleMania 26 against Triple H, to being a two-time WWE champion and King of the Ring, to not even being on the show. That was a hard pill to swallow. But in a way, when I look back, that was great because when I walked out of that building last year, I was more determined than ever to start fresh the next day and come back in the top spot. Things happen for a reason, and maybe at the time, that's not the reason you want to hear, but you need to use it as motivation. If people are unhappy about The Rock stepping in, they need step up their game and use it as motivation to get back next year. If you show what you can do during the course of the year, you can grab one of the top spots at next year's WrestleMania.

Jon Robinson: You've been one of the main wrestlers involved in WWE's Be a Star campaign against bullying. Were you bullied as a kid?

Sheamus: Yeah, it's true. I was a chubby kid with red hair and freckles. I was an introvert, and I was an easy target for those bullies. It's tough being a kid, so when I heard about the Be a Star campaign, I wanted to be a part of it. This campaign is very important to me and to the other WWE superstars, and it has truly become a global phenomenon. It's funny, because when I tell people I was bullied, they all shake their head. They're looking at me now and can't believe Sheamus was bullied, but I took a bad dose of the old bullying. One thing about it, though, it made me stronger and gave me thicker skin. And for all those nonbelievers, it gave me courage to follow my dream. We're doing everything we can to put an end to bullying. A lot of bullies don't understand the damage they're doing to these kids because they've never been in their shoes. They're popular, they're trying to be cool, and they're not realizing what they're doing to the kids they are picking on. A lot of kids are starting to realize this now, and the positive response we're getting from the schools and the parents and the kids has been great. I'm really proud to be a part of it.

Jon Robinson: You talk to the kids, then they see you at WrestleMania, and it shows them that things aren't always going to be this bad. Your dreams can come true.

Sheamus: If a fat, chubby kid from Dublin, Ireland can become a WWE superstar, it just shows that if you put 100 percent into everything you want, you can achieve the kind of success that people never thought you could. Especially in this country. America is the land of opportunity, and while that sounds cliché, it's true. This country has given me a tremendous opportunity, and when I'm out at WrestleMania in Miami in front of 80,000 people, you're seeing a success story, you're seeing my dreams come true, and it's something I hope kids will see and realize that if you work hard enough, you can achieve your dreams too.