Madden attended and graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He was a star football player for the Commodores from 1978-1982. In Madden's senior year, he was one of key players who led Vanderbilt to its best season in modern times. The team was 8-3 in the regular season and played in the Hall of Fame Bowl, one of only three bowl games Vanderbilt has played. The team narrowly missed winning the SEC Championship. Madden was a star linebacker and team leader.