EA Sports held "Madden Gras" in New Orleans on Monday to help promote the release of Madden NFL 11, which bears Saints QB Drew Breeson the cover.
Former Saints Stars Joe Horn, Fred McAfee, Deuce McAllister, Mike McKenzie and Bobby Hebert participated in the festivities to support Brees. Along with the Saints icons, former NFL stars Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk and Chuck Munciewere on hand for the event.
McAfee, who currently serves as Saints Director of Player Development, understands how quickly the football gaming world has changed.
"When I was a kid all they had was the electronic vibrating football field," said McAfee. "It went from that to a few dots on a handheld game to Tecmo Super Bowl and now the players in the game look exactly like they do in real life."
All the former NFL stars participated in an opening ceremony for the event where EA Sports presented the Natural Wildlife Foundation with a $100,000 check and Hebert capped off the opening ceremony by signing "When the Saints go Marching in" in his Louis Armstrong voice.
Following the opening ceremony, the gridiron greats participated in an interview session at Ernst Café with a number of local and national media outlets. "Madden Gras" was capped off New Orleans style with a parade on Bourbon Street.
Faulk, who is a New Orleans native and graced the cover of Madden in 2003, said that Madden Gras is arguably the biggest event EA Sports has held to celebrate a new game.
"This is up there and hard to top," said Faulk. "The parade that they did in Madden Mississippi was pretty big but this is a very special event. Having Drew as the cover guy and the Saints coming off the Super Bowl victory really put this event on the map. This might be the biggest event they have ever had."
Horn said he has always been a fan of the Madden series but didn't really get into till his kids were old enough to play.
"Madden is a household name but I really didn't get into till my kids started to," said the 2010 Saints Hall of Fame inductee. "When you have children, especially boys who want to play football, that is closest thing they can get to playing the real game. Since I have retired, I have gotten more into it because I hate losing and my kids kill me every time I play (laughter)."
Horn said whenever he played the game during his playing days, it was always with his team.
"I always played as my team – absolutely," said Horn. "I didn't play it that much but you better believe when I played I tried to throw the ball to myself every chance I got. When my daughter played the game, she threw the ball to me every single snap. It was (Aaron) Brooks to Horn or Brees to Horn. That was cool."
McAfee echoed Horn's sentiment towards being loyal to the team you played for.
"I played with my team every time because I am all about loyalty," said McAfee. "I played with four different NFL teams and whenever I played I always played with that team and played as myself."
The 16-year veteran's only gripe with the game is that he always felt slighted with his skill levels.
"I definitely made sure Fred McAfee was in the game," said McAfee. "I always got mad though when I saw Madden only gave me like a 4.4 speed or 4.5 speed I would always think 'Man, I am faster than that!'"
Along with having Brees on the cover, EA Sports inserted a number of new features that all Saints fans can appreciate. The start of the game features a video with Brees talking about the team's Super Bowl run last season with highlights from the 2009 campaign.
When playing with the Saints in the game, the contest starts with Brees doing his famous breakdown of the team huddle. Additionally, when the Saints play in the Superdome, Ying Yang Twins' song "Halftime" plays after the black and gold score.
McAllister, who is the Saints career leader in total touchdowns and rushing yards, said as big as Madden has become worldwide, he only expects it to get better.
"I have always loved Madden - who doesn't?" said McAlister. "It really brings fans closer to the game and makes you feel a part of it. Where it has gone since I was drafted is unbelievable. You think it can't get better than the year before but it always does."