NFL Turkey Leg Award, explained: How John Madden started a Thanksgiving tradition

No food accompanies Thanksgiving more than Turkey. And no game is more like a vacation than football.

So it seems natural for the two of them to come together on the field.

For years, the NFL has been playing on Thanksgiving Day, and since 1989, the MVP of the game has been given not by the mark, but by the turkey leg. Let’s face it, on Thanksgiving, a turkey leg is more fun than any other competition that can be offered.

How did this beautiful tradition come to be? Sporting News is coming.

MORE: Why the Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving

How the NFL Turkey Leg Award Began

At the 1989 Thanksgiving game between the Eagles and the Cowboys, well-known commentator John Madden decided that the MVP of the game should receive a Turkish leg as a reward for their work on the game.

Eagles midfielder Reggie White was the first to receive a turkey leg award after leading the Philadelphia defense closing 27-0 with Troy Aikman and the Cowboys.

But the myth of the Turkish leg prize was still growing.

The following year, Madden presented the award again, this time to the Cowboys returning to Emmitt Smith. Smith had taken 23 132 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-17 win over the Redskins. After the game, Madden also said he wanted to donate six turkey legs, one for Smith and one for each of the five Dallas players, prompting Joe Pat Fieseler, owner of the Harvey Barbecue Pit, to make six legs. Turkey, according to Fort Worth Star-Telegram in an article from Nov. 25, 1998.

“We had to find turkeys that had a lot of legs,” Madden told Star-Telegram. “There is only one place you can find Turkey with more than two legs, and it is in Texas.”

Fieseler explained that while it may seem like a strange bird, it does have an explanation for its origin.

“My favorite story is that these turkeys grow on a farm near the Glen Rose nuclear plant,” Fieseler told Star-Telegram.

The true origin of the six-legged turkey is not that of a shiny bird. Two legs are natural and four are fastened using three-inch planks, according to the report.

To this day, Turkey’s legs are still being handed over to top players on NBC’s Thursday night show.

MORE: Why lions always play on Thanksgiving

Gobbler runner

Madden continued to reward players until he left Fox in 2001, when the networks started offering a small cup called “Galloping Gobbler.” The competition looked like a A little rabbit wearing a hat and hitting a picture.

The award was not very popular. Smith was the first prize winner, said it looked like Cris Collinsworth bobblehead, and when he left it behind his lock, the prize was found in the trash. according to Fox Sports.

The award changed its shape over the years, later turning into a bronze statue with a ball, in 2011 it was simply transformed into a pillar. It retired in 2017, and was replaced by the “Game Ball,” which was later replaced by the winning belt in 2019.

Getty Images

The turducken

The origin of the turkey leg trophy is usually tied to Madden’s turducken.

The rabbit is a bone-free duck inserted into a boneless chicken inside a boneless turkey. At the 1997 Thanksgiving conference between Bears and Lions, Madden introduced the world to turducken, a radio broadcast in which he and Pat Summerall stood in a circle in front of both of them with a six-legged turkey.

Madden reported on the New York Times in 2002 that he was introduced to the brother by a fellow worker from the Saints. Madden said he had no dishes or utensils, but that he smelled and looked very good, so he decided to dig with his hands.

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