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Hillenmeyer's Overdog connects athletes, fans via video games

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer
Kyrie Irving connects with a young fan while playing a video game at All-Star Weekend. (USATSI)

The dream of going head-to-head with an actual athlete in Madden isn't foreign to anyone who spends a little -- or a lot -- of time playing video games online. Thanks to Overdog, a new company founded by former Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, that dream is much closer to reality.

Overdog is in the process of generating funds from "a dedicated group of fanatics" who are interested in connecting with their favorite athletes online. The quick and dirty premise: Players issue challenges via a mobile app, fans who subscribe are alerted to the challenge, a winning fan is chosen and of you go to play somone famous in your favorite video game.

Funding Overdog isn't a handout, either. Donating means instant payback for fans and future customers through subscriptions during the beta period of the company's launch.

For instance, giving Overdog $15 through Kickstarter qualifies you as a "beta subscriber," which means you'll pick up a three-month subscription for the initial launch of Overdog. Once the Kickstarter period closes on March 29, fans won't be able to use Overdog until the company goes with their full public launch in August. That means an exclusive window to play online against the likes of Vikings punter Chris Kluwe (hope you like World of Warcraft) or reigning AL Cy Young Winner David Price, both of whom are on the company's advisory board.

For $95, you can dish out five subscriptions. (Ahem, mom, this is your chance to prove you actually do read what I write.) For $150, you can purchase a "Forever Subscription" meaning you're locked in at one price for life.

Overdog lets fans connect with athletes online. (Kickstarter.com)

Or you can get real aggressive and drop a grand on the NFL package, which features "a guaranteed game of Madden 13 with a player from your favorite NFL team" set up by the Overdog team. (Although my personal favorite is dropping $2,002 to play Hillenmeyer straight-up on the Vanderbilt Memorial Gym.)

In short, there's lots of funding options depending on how lavish you want to get -- for $7,500 you can play Calvin Johnson in Madden and watch him throw go routes to himself over and over again -- and by diving onto the project early you get to spend the next few months beating out the crowd when it comes to playing head-to-head video games

What's the catch for the athletes involved? Well, the reality is, as Hillenmeyer explained to CBSSports.com, these guys spend most of their free time playing games like Madden, FIFA and whatever else they can get their hands on.

Professional athletes love Twitter in part because they get to connect with fans without having to get mobbed; these guys aren't doing this all for publicity. And video games are essentially the same thing.

"All you have to do is download the app, share your gamertag, tell us who you root for, then receive and accept challenges from all of your favorite pro athletes," Overdog writes. "Depending on whether the athlete challenges fans to a heads-up game of FIFA or a 12-person Team Death Match in Call of Duty, Overdog will randomly select fans from a drawing, 'friend' all participants automatically on the console, and queue you to start the game."

That's the beauty of this process -- a lack of complicated steps to find yourself going head-to-head in Madden with someone who plays for your favorite NFL team. Lest you think this wouldn't be fun, I can confirm it is, having lost very close Madden games to both Antonio Gates and Von Miller over the past few years. (I probably let them win, but don't tell them that.)

Today's technology has allowed fans and athletes to connect in incredibly intimate -- but safe! -- ways over the past few years and it's created better relationships between athletes and the people who cheer for them as a result.

Overdog's taking that a step further and putting fans, quite literally, in the game.

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