While the trade sending Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith to Washington has been agreed upon, it cannot be finalized until the start of the new league year on March 14.
So Patrick Mahomes was understandably careful when discussing his current situation with The Star on Thursday.
“I know a ton’s been said over social media and things like that,” Mahomes said coolly, clad in a light-blue T-shirt. “But for me, all I can do right now is just work as hard as I can if any opportunity comes.”
Oh, it’s coming.
As the Chiefs’ No. 2 quarterback this season, Mahomes worked hand-in-hand with the veteran Smith on the team’s weekly game plans. He was able to see, first-hand, what it takes to effectively prepare as a starter.
“I just feel like I’ve been doing that all year long,” Mahomes said. “I’m going to carry it over into the offseason, into training camp, and whatever opportunity happens.”
While Mahomes had to speak in hypotheticals at the site of Sunday’s Super Bowl, which he’s attending in part to promote his partnership with Panini trading cards, those around him were able to talk more freely.
The 22-year-old gunslinger from Texas Tech is on the verge of becoming the Chiefs’ starter at the most important position in football.
“When I found out about the trade I told Patrick, ‘Make sure you call Alex and thank him for everything he’s done for you,’” said LaTroy Hawkins, a former pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, and Mahomes’ godfather. “That’s the first thing I told him, and that’s the only thing.
“For a guy to come in and get drafted that high and knowing you’re going to get traded, and the way he treated Patrick ... I don’t know Alex at all, but speaking for (Patrick’s) mom and dad, I thank him for doing that, because he didn’t have to. I know how (Patrick) spoke about Alex over the course of his rookie year, how he helped him so much.”
One of the reasons Smith, a 13-year pro, took to Mahomes was Mahomes’ humility. Although the Chiefs surrendered a pair of first-round picks and a third-rounder to trade up and acquire him him as their quarterback of the not-too-distant future, Mahomes never stirred controversy with his words or actions.
“He’s a good kid, he’s a hard worker, all that — it was great for him to be in that room with Alex and to learn,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid explained. “Now, you can take that two ways. A kid can come in and they can (say), ‘Ah, I’ve got it all down.’ Or they can be a grinder, and get in like a sponge, man, and just take everything in. And that’s the approach it took.”
Reid knows it sounds like that should be a given. But it’s not.
“It sounds easy, and (you) go, ‘Ah, they’re being paid a lot and they should do that,’ but that’s not the way it always is,” Reid said.
With Mahomes proving to be a willing student, he soon had a big supporter in Smith. Reid said Smith even shared a measure of satisfaction in Mahomes’ first career start: an impressive 22-of-35 performance for 284 yards in a 27-24 win over Denver in the Chiefs’ regular-season finale.
“There was nobody supporting him more than Alex was,” Reid said. “He was like a proud big brother. It was kind of neat to watch.”
At the Pro Bowl last week, Smith said there was never any animosity between the two.
“People always talked about me versus Pat,” Smith said. “But it was never about that.”
Hawkins said that while his godson’s role on the Chiefs is about to change, his demeanor hasn’t.
“He’s been Patrick — chill, laid-back,” Hawkins said. “He understands where things are right now, and he understands that just because the media says he’s the No. 1 guy, he still has to go in there and fight and improve himself every day.
“He’s only going to be in his second year in the NFL, and there’s a lot he needs to learn.”