Bubba Wallace felt a little bit out of place. On Sunday afternoon, with a bunch of current and former NFL stars along with Snoop Dogg, the NASCAR driver found himself in a chat getting ready to play Madden as part of the virtual Pro Bowl Sunday.
Like so many other things in the 2020 NFL season, the game had to be modified because of the coronavirus pandemic. So instead of a real Pro Bowl, it went online with current and former NFL players — along with Snoop Dogg — each playing a quarter of the game.
Then there was Wallace.
“I was just taking it all in and enjoying it and then hearing some of the stories and conversations, it was just, it was almost like, ‘Man, am I really sitting here talking to these guys,'” Wallace said. “I’m just a race car driver that has no business being in the room with these people but, hey, here we are, being here playing with Snoop Dogg, that was cool.
“Between him and [former running back] Marshawn [Lynch], those were the two biggest trash talkers for sure.”
By the end, Wallace, who occasionally plays Madden but is more into Call of Duty, became the standout for the NFC with a dominant, three-touchdown second quarter versus Keyshawn Johnson in a 32-12 win over the AFC.
“Playing like that, I thought going into it, I thought I was going to be the weakest link,” Wallace said. “But I think we were able to see that I wasn’t. I was kind of the exact opposite. So it was good. It was good.”
Before the game, the eight players were talking about how bad they were. Then they played and realized the levels of “not very good” varied.
Johnson struggled throughout his five-minute quarter. He gave up three touchdowns, threw an interception and dropped a kick return, earning criticism from his fellow players and hosts Michael Strahan and Charissa Thompson.
After Wallace’s third touchdown, Johnson just held the side of his head. When the quarter was mercifully over, Wallace flexed his arms while Johnson jokingly (maybe?) accused Wallace of downplaying his skills.
“That’s pool shark hustling,” Johnson said on the stream. “What he did.”
Wallace had help. Murray, the NFC captain, told him before they started what defense to play and told him to rotate between a certain amount of offensive plays and look for the open man.
“I’m usually just an Ask Madden guy,” Wallace said. “Like I just pick a play. I’m like, ‘Ooh, this looks like a good play, let’s capitalize and try to get something there.’ He was like, pick this defense, run that the whole time and then go with a couple of these options for offense.
“Definitely could hear his voice in the crowd, like hey, pick this. Pick that. Helped out a lot. That’s why he’s the MVP.”
In one of the game’s few substitutions, Jamal Adams inserted his virtual self — because why wouldn’t you — in place of Budda Baker. Virtual Adams then intercepted a pass and forced a fumble in the second half. Adams also ran four straight passes to tight end T.J. Hockenson, leading to a touchdown.
The highlight of the game, though, had nothing to do with anything actually happening in Madden.
It was what was happening off on the side, where Snoop Dogg and Lynch had a running commentary. And when the two played each other in the fourth quarter — Lynch held on to a 20-point lead — it was rapid fire. Including when Lynch intercepted a Snoop Dogg pass and promptly fell to the ground.
The chair he was sitting on broke. “That was great comedy there,” Wallace said. “On top, all of us were laughing the whole night. It was a great time, great conversation, just being able to let loose and have fun.”
Wallace said he laughed more the entire night than he had in a long time.
Wallace, a Saints fan after meeting Alvin Kamara last year and knowing he played for his favorite college team, Tennessee, said it “was pretty damn cool” being able to play and interact with guys he used to and still does watch play on Sundays.
He had met Lynch once before — the only person he knew coming in — and at the end exchanged information with Murray, who said he’d like to come check out a race. And if Madden were to do this again, Wallace said he had enough fun that he’d make a return appearance.
“If it was structured the same way, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Wallace said. “It was fun, didn’t take up too much time, went right through and it was really cool.”