With news of NFL legend John Madden’s passing on Tuesday morning (December 28), football fans around the world have shared stories of how the coach and broadcaster impacted them. Country icon Kenny Chesney was among them.
A lifelong football fanatic, Chesney produced the high-school football documentary Boys of Fall in 2011 — and he had some help. The superstar called on Madden himself to help capture the essence of the game on film, and says he struck a friendship with Madden soon after. Madden died unexpectedly at the age of 85, and so far no cause has been determined.
“So long to my good fiend John Madden,” Chesney wrote. “He was such a big part of the Boys of Fall film. We became friends after his interview, and he’ll be missed by everyone that loves the game of football. Thank you, John, for your time and for listening to my song and bringing so many people together on a Sunday afternoon. Rest In Peace, my friend.”
Madden first rose to fame in the 1970s as the young head coach of the Oakland Raiders, and his brash, fast-paced style of play helped transform the NFL into the cultural powerhouse it is today. Over 10 seasons he was one of the winningest coaches in history, and then transitioned to broadcasting as perhaps the most influential NFL announcer ever. Later still, his name became synonymous with football video gaming through the ongoing Madden NFL series, impacting yet another generation. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
In a curious twist of fate, John Madden also had at least one more connection to the world of country music. Part of the reason he stopped coaching was reported to be a fear of flying which made it hard to travel between games. Madden apparently got around that problem by building himself a custom bus, which was inspired by the one he once borrowed from Dolly Parton.