As the Madden Championship Series 2023 comes to a close, there is no question as to the identity of the league’s two most dominant players.
But entering the series’ final tournament, the Ultimate Madden Bowl, one question looms large over the event: Will the world finally see these two stars play one another?
The MCS is a series of four tournaments, beginning with the Ultimate Kickoff Tournament in September. That was followed by Ultimate Thanksgiving in November and then Ultimate Wild Card, which took place earlier this month.
Those three events set the field for the Ultimate Madden Bowl, a 14-person tournament beginning Monday and concluding with the championship on Feb. 6 — along with a $250,000 grand prize and the coveted championship belt in the game.
Getting through the Madden Bowl bracket epitomizes “running the gauntlet,” with eight of the top 10-ranked players taking part, and No. 14 “DavidT” the lowest-ranked player in the field (outside of two last-chance qualifiers).
But most eyes will be on the two players not playing in the first round, No. 1 Henry “Henry” Leverette and No. 2 Peyton “Dez” Tuma.
The pair has taken home all three MCS belts this season (Henry two and Dez one), going a combined 10-1 in the process. Both made Madden history with their tournament wins. And they earned the two prized first-round byes in the Madden Bowl.
But their dominance in the 2023 season is where most similarities end.
Henry, 19, is the most decorated player in competitive Madden history and viewed by most as the greatest to ever play.
“I always thought I would win at least one (tournament),” Henry said after winning the Ultimate Wild Card. “I didn’t think I would have this great of a run as I am having now.”
That run includes five total championship belts, four individual belts and more than $600,000 in career winnings — all competitive Madden records.
And while Henry has been the dominant force for the last two seasons, his success has been a long time in the making.
“I retain a lot of stuff in my head,” Henry said, when asked what separates him from the rest of the esports players who spend countless hours playing Madden.
“Things that were even good back in Madden 19, Madden 20, it’s little concepts like that that you just keep in your head and they just keep applying later on.
“I’m really just sitting there building up information. … Something from past years is still going to work and it still can come up big.”
Coming up big is nothing new for Henry.
After winning the final two events of last season (Ultimate Wild Card and Ultimate Madden Bowl), Henry made it three straight belts by winning this season’s Ultimate Kickoff.
After a surprise qualifying loss kept him out of the Ultimate Thanksgiving final tournament all together — ending his run of 11 straight EA Sports major appearances — the resident of Austin, Texas, made amends in getting his second straight Ultimate Wild Card belt and the $75,000 top prize.
But it was from that Henry-less Thanksgiving event where Madden’s newest star emerged.
Dez, a little-known player at the time, stunned the esports world by winning the Ultimate Thanksgiving tournament. At 17 years, 3 months, 11 days old, he became the youngest belt winner in Madden history.
From there, the California native born into a family of Dallas Cowboys fans (hence the Dez handle) saw his life thrown into a bit of a whirlwind.
“The day after I won, I had school,” the high school senior said a couple of weeks after winning the tournament and having some time to reflect. “The teachers found out, the principal found out and they made an announcement. … It was pretty nuts.”
Another aspect of life that has gotten pretty nuts is Dez’s growing circle of friends.
“I’ve always been a Cowboys fan, so I advertised that on my broadcasts,” Dez said. “Once (Cowboys players) saw that and they saw I won, they hit me up.
“Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, Dak Prescott … it was pretty sick.”
But perhaps his biggest celebrity cheerleader on social media? Dez Bryant, of course.
Not bad for a kid who only began playing Madden when the pandemic hit, forcing someone who played sports most of his life to find a new competitive outlet while spending so much time at home.
“Back then it wasn’t much, (playing) maybe two hours a day, one hour a day,” Dez said. “It was over quarantine so that was a lot to me. One hour, two hours a day was a lot when I first started. Now it’s probably like 30 hours a week; four hours, five hours a day playing Madden.”
Those hours have certainly paid off.
After taking home the Thanksgiving title and its $75,000 top prize, Dez kept on playing, kept on winning, and kept on climbing the MCS rankings — all the way up to the No. 2 spot.
That ranking put Dez on the side opposite Henry in the Ultimate Wild Card bracket, meaning the only way the two would meet would be in the championship. But after Henry advanced to the final game, Dez was upset by John “Mr Football 88” Britt in the other semi, robbing many fans of the matchup they wanted to see.
“I really want to see 1 vs. 2. I want to see Henry vs. Dez in the ‘ship,” professional gamer and Twitch commentator Tyler “TDavis” Davis said before Dez’s semifinal loss. “That is what I need. The world needs that.”
On Feb. 6, the world may finally get that.
Ultimate Madden Bowl schedule
Games played Jan. 23-24, Feb. 1-2, Feb. 6
No. 1 Henry “Henry” Leverette
No. 2 Peyton “Dez” Tuma
First-round matchups (Jan. 23 & Jan. 24)
No. 3 Dwayne “Cleff The God” Wood vs. Shay “Kiv” Kivlen (Last Chance Qualifier)
No. 4 Noah “Noahupnxt” Johnson vs. Jacob “Fancy” Worthington (Last Chance Qualifier)
No. 5 John “Mr Football 88” Britt vs. No. 12 “TTvTheDavidT”
No. 6 Wesley “Wesley” Gittens vs. No. 11 Daniel “Dcroft” Mycroft
No. 7 “Big Gucci” vs. No. 10 Cole “Cole” Anthony
No. 8 “Cobo” vs. No. 9 “JackOregon”
Ultimate Madden Bowl prize money
–Field Level Media