KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes‘ social calendar was full during May in town. He was spotted at a Jason Aldean concert, threw out the first pitch at a Royals game and wore jorts and a sleeveless baseball jersey to a NASCAR race.
It’s not that Mahomes didn’t indulge in some Kansas City events last year, when he was a Chiefs rookie and the backup quarterback to Alex Smith. But seemingly every one of his outings is now celebrated on social media, and there’s little doubt that he’s taking over the town as he becomes the starter.
Mahomes tried last season to blend in with the surroundings. He walked precisely the delicate balance between being the first signal-caller picked in the first round by the Chiefs in 34 years and being the supportive No. 2 quarterback. Much has been made of how Smith was the perfect mentor for Mahomes, but it’s just as true that having Mahomes capably deflect attention away from himself benefited Smith in his final season in Kansas City.
Now the starter, Mahomes is still liberal with the compliments for his teammates and his new hometown. But he’s no longer deferential. The trade of Smith to Washington was hardly completed when Mahomes began bugging his teammates for throwing sessions, long before offseason practice started.
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“He just took control out there on the first day,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “That’s the biggest thing is seeing that he does have control of the room at such a young age, knowing this is his first rodeo in the NFL. He’s not shy about taking the lead and that’s huge. It makes it easier on all of us to see the direction of where this can go and it’s easy to follow that.
“It’s exciting and it’s something I think we’re going to have to do together knowing Pat’s situation, him coming into a role with a lot of scrutiny at the quarterback position. It’s definitely going to be a team effort to try to get him rolling.”
Mahomes didn’t come to Kansas City with much experience at being the backup. He was a reserve for part of his true freshman year at Texas Tech, but he moved into the starting lineup before that season was finished and stayed there for his final two seasons with the Red Raiders.
Still, he knew enough to largely stay in his cocoon as a rookie, to be seen but seldom heard.
“That’s the same for every rookie,” Mahomes said. “Every rookie, you come in and you just try to work hard and kind of keep your head down, I guess you would say, and just try to prove to the team that you’re trying to do whatever is best for the team.
“As you gain some of that respect, as you go further in your career, you start talking more and people can really respect what you’re saying because they know you’re in the best interest of your team.”
Mahomes’ background helped him in this regard. He has been around pro sports most of his life. His father, Pat, pitched for 11 seasons with six teams in Major League Baseball.
“He grew up in that environment and understood sort of intrinsically a whole lot of what passes for etiquette in team sports,” said Mahomes’ agent, Leigh Steinberg.
Steinberg is a longtime agent who has represented many of the NFL’s top quarterbacks. He said that keeping a low profile as a rookie was part of the plan for Mahomes.
“I talked through with him the process of maturation and process of integration that many of our quarterbacks have went through, whether it was Troy Aikman or Steve Young or Warren Moon,” Steinberg said. “We talked about how the first year the goal was to integrate into the team, and the only way to do that is to pay deference to the incumbent veterans and try not to go into the situation with a high profile.
“We intentionally didn’t do endorsements that would run in the Kansas City area even though they were offered. We didn’t want him to be on billboards and everything when he wasn’t even playing.”
The plan will change now that Mahomes is the starter.
He needs to take command of the locker room, one that already features established voices like those of Kelce and safety Eric Berry. That can be tricky for a young player, but Mahomes didn’t seem daunted by the task.
“I don’t see anything as intimidating,” Mahomes said.
“That just comes with the relationship you build with the guys off the field and on the field. Whenever you have respect for each other and you know that you’re trying to make the team the best you can, and you know he’s trying to make the team win, you can talk to each other and say things to each other and you respect that. That comes with all of this offseason work, the weight room, the running. If you’re giving it your all every single day, people will respect you and respect whenever you say anything on the field.”
Mahomes helped himself in the eyes of his teammates by the way he played as a rookie in practice and games. He showed uncommon ability to make difficult throws. He showed well in his one regular-season game in leading a winning field goal drive in the final moments.
“He’s always been confident from the time I’ve known him,” Berry said. “He’s been sure of himself and he’s come out and made plays. So nothing’s really changed except now he’s with [the starters].”
Beyond that, the Chiefs needed to know whether Mahomes was as committed as Smith, who put in many hours in season and out. They’ll be watching his work habits, whether he’s logging the necessary classroom time and making the extra throws to receivers outside of practice.
So far, at least, they like what they see.
“It’s just his preparation,” Kelce said. “He was ready at any point in time to go into that game and try to win for us. It’s all based off his preparation and how he went about his week-to-week work.
“Every single throw, it means something to him. Every single play means something to him. He’s not going to just sit there or lie down knowing he’s got two 300-pounders in his face. He’s going to go ahead and try to make both of them miss — and still make a throw to get us in position to keep the ball going down the field.”
When the necessary work of the day is done, then Mahomes will inevitably head out to see a Royals game, a concert, an auto race.
That, too, is part of the process of becoming the starting quarterback for the Chiefs.
“The fans come out every single week and show passion and love for us and our team and what we’re doing here,” Mahomes said. “I want to be back in the community giving back and just being a part of it so I can show the same passion and love to them.
“It’s being able to be a part of the community. For me, I like being in the community of Kansas City. People are extremely nice and extremely passionate about the Chiefs and just about their culture. For me to just try to be a part of that and just immerse myself in the culture has been an awesome experience so far.”
Source : ESPN