“I’ve dreamed about this my whole life” – we talk to EA and Travis Hunter about College Football 25

EA Sports is relaunching its college football video game series after a decade-long hiatus
EA Sports College Football 25
EA Sports College Football 25 / EA Sports

Interview conducted by Billie Melissa .

Rob Jones was a student at the University of Michigan when John Madden Football hit consoles for the first time. “I was hooked,” Jones says, “to a point where I’d spend more time playing video games than trying to get to school sometimes. 

“I only got into football because of video games.” 

We’re sitting in the EA headquarters in Orlando, Florida, where Jones and his team are launching the first College Football video game since 2013.

Just last season, Jones' alma mater went 15-0 and won a national championship under the masterful Jim Harbaugh.

Like Harbaugh did this year, Jones left Michigan for California in 1995 when his resume hit EA Sports, landing him a dream opportunity. “I had actually been writing for a sports video game magazine,” Jones tells me. “I got a call one day to see if I could be on an on-demand team… I packed my two little suitcases from Michigan and flew out.”

Now the senior production director of College Football at EA, Jones is helming the relaunch of the first college football video game in over a decade.

EA Sports College Football 25 - CampusIQ
EA Sports College Football 25 / EA Sports

After pouring years into their labor of love, people outside the development team are finally getting their hands on it for the first time.

A tangible buzz floods the atmosphere as people prepare to return to their college years in pixel form. Every FBS school of the NCAA is represented, meaning Jones and his team have programmed over 134 playbooks into the game with ten play styles and college-specific mechanics for this launch.

Jones reminisces on the early days of playing football video games, describing the experience as “playing chess with sport.” Coaches are not just leaders but mathematicians, using the exes and ohs to communicate to players how they will accomplish a victory when they line up eleven of their best men to face off against eleven of the other team’s best.

EA Sports College Football 25’s cover features a selection of three of those best: Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers, Colorado wide receiver/defensive back Travis Hunter, and Michigan running back Donovan Edwards.

“I’ve dreamed about this my whole life, being on the cover of any game,” Hunter says.

EA Sports College Football 25 cover
EA Sports College Football 25 cover /

When NCAA Football 14 came out, Hunter was eleven years old – “I haven’t played it in a decade.” Is he excited to sit down and face off against his fellow college athletes? “I’m not trying to play this with nobody. I’m trying to play Road to Glory,” he says.

Hunter is referring to an aspect of the game that invites the player to immerse themselves in the world of becoming a college athlete.

Here, you create your star player, choose from a selection of positions on both sides of the ball and build your legacy on and off the field. You will learn to balance academics with football, face decisions such as balancing your weekly schedule with your GPA, and earn your coach’s trust. Players will also encounter decisions off the field, including transfers and managing health and fitness. Once you’ve completed your journey, you also have the option to import your character into Madden Superstar.

With the sport expanding each year around the globe, I ask Rob Jones if he has considered this. Does he think College Football 25 might inspire a new generation of athletes, just as Madden inspired a new generation of football fans? “I don’t know that we set out to inspire all brand new players,” he says, “but we’re trying to give people the opportunity to feel what that life would be like.”

For many, a new NCAA video game feels like a homecoming. “As I grew up, the franchise grew with me,” Brentyn Young, Baylor Graduate and lifelong College football fan, says. “The graphics got better, and my knowledge of football improved. I would challenge my friends to games at sleepovers.”

Pre-Snap recognition - EA Sports College Football 25
EA Sports College Football 25 / EA Sports

A popular aspect of earlier editions for fans like Young is Dynasty mode, where players become the coach. Young recalls diving into Dynasty at a young age, saying, “There is something special about taking over a floundering program and turning them into a contender.” 

This mode returns in College Football 25 and allows you to run your program on and off the field, working to recruit the finest high school athletes while adopting a coaching archetype, i.e., motivator, recruiter, tactician, with a selection of 11 different skill trees.

“I still play a copy of NCAA 2013 I have for the PS3,” Young says. “I currently have a coach career franchise that has been running for 25 years where I have rebuilt Hawaii, Georgia Tech, and Idaho into behemoths. I am praying that NCAA 25 is good enough for me to finally retire the old console.”

Jones speaks passionately about bringing fans back to such a beloved game. He remembers playing Spider-Man for the first time as a kid, saying, “I was floating through the city. I can’t believe it. I’ve been a Spider-Man fan since I was a little kid, and they finally did a Spider-Man where it felt like Spider-Man should feel. They nailed that.”

Beyond the playbooks and the technicalities, above all else, Jones’ big ambition for the game is to bottle the pageantry and spectacle that is the staple of the time-old North American collegiate tradition.

Homefield advantage Oklahoma - EA Sports College Football 25
EA Sports College Football 25 / EA Sports

His hope for College Football 25 is that people will get that same butterflies-in-stomach feeling he did sitting down to play Spider-Man for the first time.

“If you’ve been at one of those schools, you know what it means to be a fan of that college or a student of that school,” Jones says. “Whatever ties you to it, the moment you turn the game on, you go, ‘Whoa, they know they know me’. They know my school, they know our team, they know everything that makes this special in a way that is so enthralling and engaging that it’s not just ‘I’m playing a football game that represents college football teams,’ but it actually feels like way more than that.”

Brentyn Young adds, “The NCAA games have alluded to these traditions in the past, but none have attempted to capture these moments.

“[Baylor] has a tradition where the entire freshman class runs out on the field before the game. It’s referred to as Running of the Baylor Line, and generations of Baylor students (including my father) since the 1970s have participated.

“I hope the games do these traditions justice, as every fan base has an emotional connection to [them].”

National Championship trophy - EA Sports College Football 25
EA Sports College Football 25 / EA Sports

Emotion drives the team responsible for bringing College Football 25 to life. As we sit down to fire up the game, the developers eagerly sneak peeks over people’s shoulders, barely unable to contain their excitement as they ask for first thoughts and impressions on a project that has been a mighty effort of a few passionate people with the same mission in mind.

“I had to bring that joy, keep that smile on my face,” Travis Hunter says of the reason behind his palpable energy on the front cover. Come September, he’ll be ready to charge onto the football field for another season, but from July, people will no longer have to count down the days for Saturdays in fall to feel the electricity of another college game course through their veins. They’ll be able to capture the magic from home.