3 University of Michigan athletes once graced the cover of a big video game franchise. Where are they now?

By Lucas Henkel

June 6, 2024

From 1993 to 2014, EA Sports featured some of the most prolific names in collegiate football to grace the covers of their games—including several players from the University of Michigan.

While it has undergone several name changes—including Bill Walsh College Football, College Football USA, and NCAA Football—the college football video game franchise developed by EA Sports fueled the dreams of an entire generation of youth of becoming all-star athletes.

With news that the newest edition of the video game franchise—EA Sports College Football 25—is coming back this summer, gamers are excited to live out their football fantasies on their screens.

EA Sports College Football 25 will feature Donovan Edwards, who plays for the University of Michigan as a running back, alongside Texas Longhorns QB Quinn Ewers and University of Colorado cornerback Travis Hunter—on its cover. Edwards, a three-time Big Ten Conference title winner, is one of a handful of collegiate football players from the University of Michigan who has graced the cover of the popular video game franchise since its inception.

Read on to learn more about these prolific Wolverines—and what they’re up to now—below.

Charles Woodson

Cornerback and Safety for the University of Michigan (1995-1997), featured on the cover of NCAA Football 99 (PC).

3 University of Michigan athletes once graced the cover of a big video game franchise. Where are they now?

Duane Burleson/AP

The minds behind NCAA Football 99 were able to introduce three-dimensional polygon-rendered players to the game—a first for the franchise—that allowed fans to experience more realistic gameplay. The game allowed people to create their own players and featured over 60 fight songs and chants.

The game featured Charles Woodson—one of the most decorated defensive football players to play in the NFL—on its cover.

Woodson attended the University of Michigan from 1995 to 1997, where he played cornerback and safety positions for the Wolverines. In his junior season in 1997, Woodson became the third Michigan player to win the Heisman Trophy and the only defensive player in college football history to win the coveted award. He also earned multiple All-American honors and awards from the Big Ten.

After he finished his three-year collegiate career with the Wolverines, Woodson was selected as the fourth overall pick in the 1998 draft by the Oakland Raiders. Woodson would later make his first Super Bowl appearance in 2003, but the Raiders would fall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 48-21 loss.

Woodson would have another opportunity to take home a Super Bowl win in 2010 after he was traded to the Green Bay Packers. After breaking his collarbone shortly before halftime during Super Bowl XLV, Woodson cheered from the sidelines as his team secured a 31-25 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers—his only championship title.

After the Super Bowl win, Woodson played with Green Bay for a few more seasons until 2013, when he signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders. Woodson would finish his final season with the Raiders in 2016—ending an 18-year-long career with the NFL. The nine-time Pro Bowl player was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021.

Today, Woodson is an NFL analyst for ESPN, covering some of Fox Network’s biggest games. When he’s off the field, Woodson is focused on his craft booze brands—Woodson Bourbon Whiskey and Intercept Wines.

Desmond Howard

Wide Receiver and Return Specialist for the University of Michigan (1988-1991), featured on the cover of NCAA Football 06 (PlayStation 2 and Xbox).

3 University of Michigan athletes once graced the cover of a big video game franchise. Where are they now?

Mark Lennihan/AP

In NCAA Football 06, a new game mode, “Race for the Heisman,” allowed fans to play as a standout high school athlete hoping to sign with a major college program. As the game progresses, fans can choose which college their player should attend and guide him on his journey to snatching the coveted Heisman Trophy.

For the first time in the franchise’s history, NCAA Football 06 featured an actual music soundtrack instead of only playing school fight songs and band pieces. The soundtrack included music from artists like Bad Religion, The Clash, NOFX, and others.

The game featured former Michigan Wolverines standout and Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard on the cover. Howard is the only cover athlete not to have played the year before their respective game was released—he last played at the University of Michigan in 1991.

While attending the University of Michigan from 1988 to 1991, Howard became the first receiver in Big Ten history to lead the conference in scoring—he set (or at least tied) five NCAA records and a dozen school records, including 19 receiving touchdowns in a single season. The two-time All-American won the Heisman Trophy in 1991.

After college, Howard was selected as the fourth overall pick in the 1992 NFL Draft by the Washington Commanders (then going by another name). However, his most notable professional season was in 1996 when he played for the Green Bay Packers.

Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown during the second half of the 1997 Super Bowl XXXI not only helped the Packers secure the 35-21 win against the New England Patriots, but it also helped secure him the Super Bowl MVP award that year. Howard is the only player to win the award based solely on a special teams performance.

After the Super Bowl, Howard became a free agent and signed with the Oakland Raiders for one season before re-joining the Packers in 1999, but was cut halfway through the season due to performance issues. After being signed to the Detroit Lions four days later, Howard would go on to play for the Lions until his final season in 2002—marking the end of his 11-season long NFL career. He would later be selected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Today, Desmond Howard is a college football analyst for ESPN. He has been an analyst on College GameDay since 2005, calls midweek games on ESPN, and contributes to other ESPN shows and platforms.

Denard Robinson

Quarterback for the University of Michigan (2009-2012), featured on the cover of NCAA Football 14 (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360).

3 University of Michigan athletes once graced the cover of a big video game franchise. Where are they now?

Jay LaPrete/AP

Due to legal issues surrounding name, image, and likeness rights, NCAA Football 14 was the last installment of the video game franchise. Seven months before the game was released, in December 2012, the game’s developers allowed fans to vote on social media to decide which player graced the cover of the final game.

After multiple rounds of voting—and over six million votes later—fans chose Michigan QB Denard Robinson over Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope to be featured as the game’s cover athlete.

Robinson broke several records and received multiple honors while attending the University of Michigan from 2009 to 2012—both on and off the football field. As a freshman and as a sophomore, Robinson competed as a sprinter for the Michigan men’s track and field team.

Because of his quickness—he ran the 40-yard dash in just 4.35 seconds—Robinson stated after his final season at Michigan that he was open to playing any position in the NFL. Robinson was the only Wolverine from the 2012-2013 team who was invited to participate in the NFL Combine. He was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft as a running back and played for the Florida team from 2013 to 2016.

After working as a scouting assistant and as offensive quality control for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2019 to 2021, Robinson returned to the University of Michigan in 2022 after accepting a position as the assistant director of player personnel for the Wolverines under former coach Jim Harbaugh.

In April of 2024, Michigan suspended Robinson indefinitely after the former quarterback was arrested for driving while intoxicated, which resulted in a single-vehicle crash in Ann Arbor. Robinson was the second Michigan football staff member arrested for driving while intoxicated that year—defensive line coach Greg Scruggs resigned five days after getting arrested in March.

Bonus: Sparty the Spartan

Mascot for Michigan State University, featured on the cover of NCAA Football 09 (Nintendo Wii).

3 University of Michigan athletes once graced the cover of a big video game franchise. Where are they now?

Carlos Osorio/AP

In 2008, to help promote its new Wii version of the NCAA Football game, EA held a competition that allowed fans to vote on their favorite NCAA Division I college football team mascot. The winner of the competition—Michigan State University’s Sparty—was featured on the cover of NCAA Football 09 for the Nintendo Wii.

The other four versions of the game featured a different athlete on the cover—including former Arkansas running back Darren McFadden (Xbox 360), former Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan (Playstation 3), former California wide receiver DeSean Jackson (PlayStation 2), and former West Virginia fullback Owen Schmitt (PlayStation Portable).


  • Lucas Henkel

    Lucas Henkel is a multimedia reporter who strives to inform and inspire local communities. Before joining The 'Gander, Lucas served as a journalist for the Lansing City Pulse.



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