Unlike his father Mike Shanahan, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan didn't have a personal relationship with the late John Madden. But the football legend has been in the younger Shanahan's life for as long as he can remember.
"I would've been a much better student if it wasn't for John Madden," Shanahan said Wednesday to reporters. "I spent my whole probably first 25 years of my life playing his video game all the time, which was as good of a game as it gets.
"And I think that's where everyone from my generation kind of knew him exactly."
Madden, who became a pioneer coaching the Raiders plus his legendary career in the broadcast booth and being the face, and for a long time the voice, of the most iconic football video game franchise of all time died Tuesday at 85 years old.
Shanahan is 42 years old. His star linebacker Fred Warner is 25. But both attribute a part of their love for the game to an obsession with "Madden" the video game, which first hit the shelves in 1988.
"Such a huge impact," Warner said. "Just his love for the game and obviously 'Madden.' You have an NFL football video game named after you. That's a huge deal, especially for myself growing up playing that game 24/7."
Warner even remembers the first time he saw himself in the game as an NFL player for the 49ers.
"It was pretty special when I first saw my little player on the game," Warner said. "I didn't have to create myself in a Create-A-Player anymore.
"That was tough hearing that news. He impacted a lot of people and impacted the game in a huge way."
Before the video game was released and after his 10-year coaching career, Madden hopped into the broadcast booth. His catchphrases, one-liners and pure excitement live on forever.
So does his unique style on TV, beyond just his voice.
"And then you heard him on Monday Night Football all the time," Shanahan said. "It was cool to see, like me growing up, I always watched him on TV and loved him and as I got more into coaching or the aspects of football, I'd always be like, ‘Why is he drawing on the screen so long? I want to hear what he’s saying.’
"And then other new guys came when they tried to replace him and no one could entertain the normal fan as much as he could. And it seemed like they never totally did replace him for a while."
From his time growing up here in the Bay Area to staring down the face of Al Davis and later becoming the voice of America for the NFL's biggest games, and a new way to love football for so many others with his video game, there was only one John Madden.
As Shanahan said, there's no replacing a legend.
"I just know how much he meant, starting with that video game, how much he meant to everyone. Hearing his voice on Monday night football and I think someone said it yesterday, but he lived as good of a football life as anyone.
"And without me knowing him, I would totally have to agree on that.”