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Forget Tom Brady. Meet the Rhode Islander who might be the best ‘Madden’ player in the world (seriously)

Jacob Wallack, a Northeastern University student who graduated from Moses Brown, is poised to win the video game’s championship

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Happy Thursday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I’m pretty sure that Governor Raimondo scored more points in her State of the State last night than PC scored against Seton Hall. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 116,704 confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, after adding 446 new cases. The most-recent overall daily test-positive rate was 3.6 percent, and the first-time positive rate was 20.4 percent. The state announced 12 more deaths, bringing the total to 2,198. There were 298 people in the hospital, and 76,741 residents had received the first dose of the vaccine.


If you’re a little distraught by the idea that Tom Brady is playing in the Super Bowl for a team that isn’t the Patriots this weekend, there’s a different New Englander about to play in a huge football game who you can root for – and he’s from Rhode Island.

Jacob Wallack, a Northeastern University student who graduated from Moses Brown in 2019, is considered one of the best “Madden” video game players in the world (seriously, this is a thing).

Tonight, he’s playing in the semifinals of the biggest tournament of the year, the Madden Club Championship. If he wins the competition, he’ll take home $150,000.

You can watch Wallack’s game here at 6 p.m. (it’s actually quite entertaining), but I decided to give him the Brady treatment and ask how he’s preparing for his big game.

Q: I watched your 24-21 win in the NFC North Finals. How did you get so good at this game?

Wallack: Practice, practice, practice. I put a lot of time into the game, and I also benefit from having some very good players to practice with.


Q: This is going to sound strange, but it kind of reminds me of a chess match. When you get to the highest level of competition, does everything come down to strategy?

Wallack: I think that looking at competitive “Madden” through the lens of a chess match works perfectly. I would say that the skills of game come out to be about 75 percent pre-snap strategy. Non-strategic skills, like decision-making and player movement, are also very important to master, though.

Q: Do you play other games competitively or is it just “Madden?” How do you balance school work, your social life, and the game?

Wallack: At this point I basically just play “Madden.”  Before “Madden,” I was playing a bit of competitive “Fortnite,” but I stopped playing at the beginning of “Madden 20” (a new edition of the game is issued each year). It is really hard to balance everything. I took the fall semester off from school, which was helpful, but right now I am doing the tournament and school. It is most definitely not easy, but I have been doing a really good job of getting ahead of the work. 

Q: You have another big matchup tonight. Tell us about your opponent and how you plan to win.

Wallack: BIG GAME! I am super excited and ready. My opponent, Gucci, runs mostly meta (popular) schemes so I feel very prepared for my game and confident that I will not be surprised by anything. I also just got to see him play against my offensive scheme, which is beneficial.


Q: What’s next for you in your competitive gaming career? Is this something you can do professionally?

Wallack: I don’t have any aspirations to do “Madden” as a full time job at the moment. Right now, all I can say is that I am fully focused on trying to win the entire Madden 21 Club Championship.


⚓ During her State of the State address last night, Governor Gina Raimondo acknowledged that it will be difficult to leave Rhode Island, but she said she is confident that her administration laid the foundation for a stronger and more equitable state. Read more

⚓ The US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation needed less than 15 minutes to send Raimondo’s nomination to be Commerce secretary to the full Senate, but it’s still unclear when she will be confirmed. Read more.

⚓ Amanda Milkovits reports that in one of Rhode Island’s first hate crime cases in more than five years, a retired oral surgeon from Barrington was found guilty Wednesday of disorderly conduct and assaulting his Iranian-American neighbor in a dispute over a misplaced boundary marker. Read more.

⚓ As the pandemic extends into winter, Alexa Gagosz reports that owners of nearly 100 restaurants are biting the bullet and going into hibernation for the season. Read more.



⚓ Politics: My colleague Liz Goodwin has an excellent look at how President Joe Biden is winning the trust from the left by holding firm on a big COVID-19 relief package. Read more.

⚓ Police: Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh placed newly appointed Police Commissioner Dennis White on leave Wednesday night and said the city would hire an outside group to conduct an investigation following Globe inquiries about the handling of a 1999 allegation of domestic violence involving White. Read more.

⚓ Sports: Columnist Dan Shaughnessy writes that Tampa has better sports teams than Boston right now. Read more.

⚓ Travel: More Florida. Orlando and Tampa sound fun, but a road trip from Jacksonville to Gainesville offers a different kind of magic. Read more.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at

⚓ BIRTHDAYS: Rhode Map readers, if you want a friend or family member to be recognized on Friday, send me an e-mail with their first and last name, and their age.

⚓ Incoming Governor Dan McKee and Health Department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott will hold their weekly COVID-19 press conference at 1 p.m.

⚓ The Senate Committees on Finance and Housing and Municipal Government will hold a joint hearing to discuss housing policy at 5:30 p.m.

⚓ The Providence City Council meets at 7 p.m. Here’s the agenda.

⚓ Do you ❤ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at Follow him @danmcgowan.