How Buffalo Bills fans made the Madden NFL 24 cover featuring Josh Allen

Alaina GetzenbergESPNJune 17, 2023, 3:35 PM ET5 minute reading

‘Right here, right now’: The origin of Bills Mafia’s iconic mantra

“Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?” Former Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy’s words will forever live as the mantra of one of the most electric and loyal fan bases in the NFL.

BUFFALO, NY — Jeffery Shamberger’s son, Jason, got to take a few looks at the new cover for the “Madden NFL 24” video game.

When he realized exactly whose face was smiling to the left of Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, with his arm clutching Allen’s right elbow, texted his father immediately with the photo.

“He says, ‘Man, look at this.’ I recognize this picture, this face right next to Josh Allen,” Jeffery Shamberger recalled. “‘…That’s my dad.’

Getting that text was how Shamberger learned that an answered casting call and the photo shoot that came with Buffalo’s signal call was for much more than a website or magazine. The true use of the photo shoot was kept under wraps until the cover was revealed in June, marking not only the first Bills player on the cover, but the first time in Madden history that the cover featured fans alongside the cover athlete. All fans included on the cover were real Bills fans from the Los Angeles area, creating a unique experience for these supporters.

“I think the fact that there’s Bills Mafia on the cover, it’s a validation for a long time of football here that maybe hasn’t gone the right way, but Bills Mafia is so over-the-top energetic and every year is it our year and I love it. about them,” Allen said. “They love football almost as much as I love football, and I’ve said that quite a few times, but it’s the God’s honest truth that when people play here, when guys play here, they feel the love, they feel it excitement. “

The casting call was something Shamberger, who is now retired, heard about from his wife, Regina, who is involved in the entertainment business. He became a Bills fan after moving to Buffalo in the 1980s for his first job out of college after growing up in Philadelphia.

He passed on the Bills fan tradition to his son and his grandson, Jackson.

Rio Kamimura became a Bills fan growing up in San Diego thanks to one of his good friends from elementary school being from Buffalo. Over time, Bills also became a big part of his life. Now he lives in Los Angeles and one of his side hustlers takes acting jobs or casting calls like this one for Bills fans.

Both Kamimura and Shamberger filmed videos of themselves to submit for consideration.

Both fans noted how it stood out that they were asked to do background checks before being accepted for the job and that it was atypical. However, the actual goal of the shoot remained under wraps, and both showed up on March 23 in their Bills gear. Another hint that something more was going on came when their phones were taken away for the day.

Makeup artists were on hand to put on all the right Bills colors, and the group of fans had plenty of time to chat and discuss their fandom.

“To see all the people there, and then again, it was really Bills fans,” Shamberger said. “They knew everything about the team and everything, so I was just really happy to talk to certain people and just enjoy Bill’s stories.”

Josh Allen surrounded by Bills fans on the “Madden NFL 24” cover.EA Sports

The fans in attendance practiced with stand-ins dressed in Bills uniforms, celebrated pretend touchdowns and cheered as they jumped into the crowd. Kamimura said there were rumors that Allen would appear.

Finally, seemingly out of nowhere, the speculation came true.

“They start taping and as soon as they start taping Josh Allen shows up and then he just walks into the center where he was supposed to start,” Kamimura said. “Everybody just like, starts cheering extraordinarily. Everybody’s shocked that he’s actually there.”

During the shoot, they had a few takes with Allen before he encouraged the group to cheer even louder.

“I was like, ‘Guys, like I scored a touchdown, like, let’s grab me like we’re going to win the game right now, like, let’s make it realistic,'” Allen recalled. “So, they felt so funny, I had so much fun shooting it with them and props to those fans because they were on the cover too. …I think it’s pretty special, especially with Bill’s Mafia. I think the representation there is very valid and it’s long overdue.”

Shamberger also recalled that Allen encouraged him to grab his arm and celebrate appropriately. The impression both got was how special the experience was, getting to interact with Allen from short conversations to handshakes. They shot the jump around three or four times and did it from a few different angles.

It wasn’t until months later, when the cover came out on June 7, that they found out they were on a piece of Bills history. Shamberger has the best spot as the most visible face to the left of Allen, and Kamimura is behind Allen near the Madden logo.

“I’m just so proud of the fact that I had a chance to not only participate, but it was something that I really love as far as the Buffalo Bills are concerned,” Shamberger said. “I mean, this is part of the family, so it couldn’t be, like I say, it’s the next thing to a Super Bowl, as far as I’m concerned.”

Leave a Comment