‘Madden 24’ Cover Athlete Josh Allen On His Biggest Rivalries And Path To NFL Greatness

The first Buffalo Bills player to land a “Madden” cover is one of the NFL’s most elite QBs.

A photo of Josh Allen surrounded by the ever-loyal Bills Mafia just made the cover of Madden 24, an honor that the Buffalo Bills superstar has certainly earned. There’s no other NFL QB who mirrors the particular skill combination that Allen brings to the gridiron. His singular combo of hulking size, precision accuracy, 50-caliber cannon arm and gazelle-like speed are what makes him a true unicorn across all pro sports.

While some of these qualities are God-given, Allen’s destiny as a premier NFL QB was far from pre-ordained: Keep in mind the kid, who grew up on a central California farm, wasn’t even recruited by a single Division I NCAA football program. He had to battle his way through a junior college program just to be given a shot at starting… for the University of Wyoming. 

Allen’s prodigious college performance and boundless natural talent earned him national attention that led to his being drafted seventh overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2018. While early struggles defined his rookie year, Allen broke out in 2020, leading the Bills to their first playoff victory in a quarter of a century.

Ever since the Winter Soldier solidified himself as one of the deadliest weapons in the game, becoming the first player ever to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 750 yards in a single season in 2021. Beloved by the Bills Mafia, one of the NFL’s rowdiest fanbases, that summer their team rewarded Allen with a six-year, $250 million contract.

We spoke with Allen about his rivalries with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, path to the NFL, charity work with My Cause My Cleats and the Oishei Children’s Hospital, and more.

You grew up on a farm in a small farm in central California, went to Wyoming for college, and got drafted by the smallest market in the NFL. You seemed to land in the perfect spot; there’s a sincere love affair with the Bills Mafia. What are your feelings on the luck, or destiny, of landing in Buffalo?

It was definitely a place that was a perfect match for me in terms of how I grew up, my values, my morals. And they’ve been through the ringer here, you could talk about a lot of different things: you could talk about the [lost] Super Bowls, the playoff draught, the ups and downs, the selling of the team and not knowing if it was going to move to Toronto or not. And these fans have been so loyal and so appreciative towards this team and this franchise. 

Every year, no matter how good or bad the previous year was, this next year it’s our year. And it’s the belief that they have, the love that they have for the Bills. They care about football almost as much as I do, and I think that’s why I fit in here so well.

(Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

Right now you and the Chiefs are looking like the forces of the NFL. Those are going to be some fun battles for the next 10 or more years—you and Patrick Mahomes are basically becoming the NFL’s next Brady-Manning rivalry. That’s got to be exciting for you.

Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a cool way to phrase it and to know that people talk about me that way, and put me in the same phrase as those three names. It’s definitely surreal. But I don’t really look at it that way. I’m just trying to win football games and do whatever I can to help this team, and that’s been my mindset since I’ve stepped into this building on day one. And I think that’s going to forever be my mind mindset.

I don’t really play for the stats or for the numbers. I’m just trying to win, and I want to win Super Bowls, and I want to bring that buzz and that energy here to the great fans of Western New York.

You weren’t offered scholarships by any Division I school. You had to fight your way through a junior college to get there. Your path has not been that of the golden boy. Now after a couple development seasons you’re growing into a position where people expect greatness. Do you see these expectations as a positive because now you no longer have to prove you’re capable, or does it just add additional pressure?

To be completely honest, my expectations of myself are much higher than what anybody has of me. Anything that’s been said about me, to me, I’ve already said it to myself. And that’s negative, that’s positive. I feel like I’ve always believed in myself in that aspect. And I went to junior college instead of walking on to a four-year somewhere ’cause I was like, “Listen, I’m going to get a scholarship. I’m not going to force my family to pay for me to walk on somewhere. I can go work, and I can go get a scholarship.”

That’s just always been the internal drive in me of, “I know I’m capable of doing this.” And I think there’s guys in this league that either figure it out or get figured out, and I was going to be the one that figured it out. But I’ve got to continue to figure it out each and every day I step in this building and try to be the best version of myself, continue to learn the nuances of this game, and find ways to be better and to help the team win football games.

(Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

You see that in hyper-competitive athletes like Brady, Kobe, etc. If you’re going to be great, you’re going to be your own toughest critic. In Wyoming your first real success was with your legs, and then when you got to the NFL, your first couple years you survived running. Now you’ve transitioned into a more deadly and more traditional pocket quarterback role where you can kill with your arm and/or legs. How important was that to you, and where are you in your development?

Yeah it took a small army to get to the point that I’m at right now. Obviously there’s still a lot to do, a lot to grow from, a lot to learn from. But you’re talking about working with a quarterback coach in the offseason. You’re talking about bio-mechanically mapping my mechanics via a digital platform, and there’s cameras everywhere, and trying to learn from that. Talking with my coaching staff, throwing with teammates. And then again having that internal voice in your head saying, “You got to get this done. You got to go work out, you got to go to the field and find ways to throw.” And just trying to figure out my throwing stroke.

I’m just trying to be as in-command as possible with that, and it’s taken so many different people, so many different hands. It’s been awesome to be a part of though, ’cause it’s not just me. There’s so many other people that can say that they took place in my development. But there’s still a lot to grow from and lot to learn from.

One of the benefits for a small-town guy getting to this position is the ability to give back. It’s clear this charity, My Cause My Cleats, which benefits a local Buffalo Children’s hospital, is very important to you. Why partake, and what was the inspiration for your cleats?

This My Cause My Cleats initiative is something the NFL offers for guys to show what they care about, what they play for. Gives them some personality, and it shows people we’re humans and we care about different things other than football. And this year I got to partner with Gillette, and that it’s very important to me when I’m choosing brands to work with and partners to help me with these things that they care about innovating into my community here. 

I’ve got the Patricia Allen Fund, which is a fund for the Oishei Children’s Hospital. And again, my cleats were designed by a guy by the name of Joshua Vides, who also designed [New England Patriots quarterback] Mac Jones’ cleats. So it’s going to be really cool to have the dueling quarterbacks wearing the same artist’s cleats showing the support and the causes that we care about.

They’ve got the OCH blocks on the front, Patricia Allen logo on the sides, and signatures from six patients at the Oishei Children’s Hospital. So it’s something that means so much to me. These are going to be available to be auctioned off on NFL Auction, and then Gillette’s actually going to match that donation, and it goes straight to Patricia Allen Fund, which benefits the Oishei Children’s Hospital and the kids and the families that are in dire need of that. So it’s something I’m very, very excited to be a part of and I can’t thank Gillette enough for going out and helping me out with this initiative.

You beat Mac Jones and the New England Patriots in last season’s Wild Card Round, such a famous rivalry with such a long history. Obviously you guys are a lot further along, but the Pats were still dangerous—they beat you last year. Is stepping on the field against them a little more special, like playing the Chiefs? 

In-division games mean a little more in terms of division standings, and you can separate or you can catch up very quickly by beating teams in your division. Something Coach McDermott always preaches for us is winning your in-division games, and those are the ones that you got to win in order to make the playoffs.

But the Patriots have caused the Bills so much pain for the last 20 years, not the Jets or the Dolphins. Is there a little bit more fire in these games?

I think maybe for the fans here, but not for the players. With the turnover the NFL has you don’t really look at the previous records of how long this and that, so we’re just focused on trying to win the next one, and that’s the most important one to us.

I’ve heard Buffalo players say they specifically really want to beat the Pats, so I don’t totally believe you but I’ll take that answer. OK last question: what’s your favorite win and why?

The next one.

Follow Managing Editor Nicolas Stecher at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.

A version of this article originally appeared in Maxim’s May/June issue.