NFL Turkey Leg Awards, Explained: How John Madden Started the Thanksgiving Tradition

No food accompanies Thanksgiving more than Turkey. And no sport is more synonymous with vacation than football.

So it seems natural that the two should be together on the field.

For years, the NFL has hosted games on Thanksgiving Day, and since 1989 the game’s MVP has been awarded not with a trophy but with a turkey leg. Let’s face it, on Thanksgiving, that turkey leg is more interesting than any trophy that can be awarded.

How did this delicious tradition come about? Sporting News dives in.

THAN: Why the Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving

How the NFL Turkey Stage Awards Begin

During the 1989 Thanksgiving match between the Eagles and the Cowboys, legendary commentator John Madden decided that the game’s MVP would receive a turkey leg as a reward for their performance in the game. .

Eagles winger Reggie White was the first recipient of the turkey leg award after he led the Philadelphia defense ahead of a 27-0 loss to Troy Aikman and the Cowboys.

But the myth of the turkey foot prize is still evolving.

The following year, Madden presented the award again, this time to the Cowboys rerun Emmitt Smith. Smith made 23 executions in 132 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-17 win over the Redskins. After the game, Madden commented that he wished he could give six turkey legs, one to Smith and one to each of Dallas’ five offensive linemen, which prompted Joe Pat Fieseler, owner owner of Harvey’s Bar BBQ Pit, creates a six-legged turkey leg, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in an article from November 25, 1998.

Madden told Star-Telegram: “We had to find turkeys that had a lot of legs on them. “There’s only one place you can get a turkey with more than two legs, and that’s in Texas.”

Fieseler explains that while it may look like an odd bird, it actually has an explanation for its origins.

“The story I want to tell is that these turkeys grew up on a farm near the nuclear plant in Glen Rose,” Fieseler told Star-Telegram.

The real origin of the six-legged turkey is not that it was an exothermic bird. Two of the legs were of course natural and the other four were attached using 3-inch wooden skewers, according to the report.

To this day, turkey legs are still given to the top players in the primetime NBC game on Thursday nights.

THAN: Why do Lions always play on Thanksgiving?

Spaceship gobbler

Madden continued to award players until he left Fox in 2001, at which point the network began handing out a small trophy called the “Galloping Gobbler.” The trophy looks like a little turkey wearing a helmet and posing.

This award is less common. Smith was the first to win the prize, claiming it looked like a Cris Collinsworth bobblehead, and after leaving it behind his locker, the prize was later found in the trash, according to Fox Sports.

The award has changed its appearance over the years, turning into a bronze statue of a turkey holding a soccer ball, before in 2011 it was changed to a plaque. It was retired in 2017 and replaced by the “Game Ball”, which was later replaced by the championship belt in 2019.

beautiful pictures


The origin of the turkey leg trophy is often associated with Madden’s spinning horse.

A boneless turkey is a boneless duck stuffed inside a boneless chicken stuffed inside a boneless turkey. During the 1997 Thanksgiving match between the Bears and the Lions, Madden introduced the world to the gyroscope, explaining it on broadcast as he and Pat Summerall stood in the booth in front of both the bear and the gyroscope. six-legged turkey.

Madden explained to The New York Times in 2002 that he was introduced to the dish by a public relations officer from Saints. Madden said he didn’t have any plates or utensils, but it smelled and looked delicious, so he decided to use his hands to fumble.

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