Nick Ruzicka, a self-proclaimed Chiefs fan since birth, left his home in Morrisville, Mo., at about 3 p.m. Friday.
But before he stepped into his silver four-door sedan, destined for Arrowhead Stadium, he grabbed the necessities — a Chiefs hat, some food and drink for the road, and an item that has been hanging in his dining room all summer.
A Patrick Mahomes jersey.
Ruzicka made the purchase in early June, only days after the Chiefs drafted Mahomes, a quarterback from Texas Tech, with their first-round pick.
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“It’s been hanging on my wall, man,” he said before the Chiefs played host to the San Francisco 49ers in the preseason Friday. “Right when you walk in my house, you see Pat Mahomes, right there.”
The red jersey — with the No. 15 stitched on the front and back — has been stationed on the wall since it arrived.
Ruzicka has been making the drive from Morrisville, a town north of Springfield home to fewer than 400 people, to Arrowhead Stadium for the past few seasons. He attended six games last year.
But Friday was his first trip to Kansas City for a preseason game. It was his first time wearing the jersey, too.
“I saved it for the Kingdom,” he said.
Ruzicka, who ironically enough has plenty of nice things to say about Chiefs starter Alex Smith, became enthralled with Mahomes’ potential on the night of the NFL Draft. He scoured social media for highlights, finding clips of Mahomes’ pro day and other throws during Texas Tech games.
With Smith locked into the starting job for 2017, Ruzicka figured Friday might be his only chance to see the man whose jersey he suddenly dons.
“I would not be here if it was not for Pat Mahomes,” Ruzicka said. “I have to see him because Alex Smith is the incumbent. ... So I am here to see Pat Mahomes — no question about it.”