Vahe Gregorian

Mahomes Mania seizes Kansas City ... but not Chiefs quarterback star Patrick Mahomes

What would Kansas City look like if the Chiefs won the Super Bowl?

Can we dare to imagine what Kansas City would look like if the Chiefs returned to the Super Bowl? Or, picture this, WON the Super Bowl. After all, it has been 48 long years.
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Can we dare to imagine what Kansas City would look like if the Chiefs returned to the Super Bowl? Or, picture this, WON the Super Bowl. After all, it has been 48 long years.

Before the version of the future in which a Patrick Mahomes monument stands alongside The Scout overlooking Kansas City and a roofed Arrowhead Stadium is better known as the Mahomes Dome and State Line Road is renamed Mahomes Pass, the reality actually already is this:

Entering just the fourth game of his era as the Chiefs’ No. 1 quarterback Monday night at Denver, Mahomes has emerged as a rare sensation in Kansas City sports lore.

For that matter, asked what Mahomes needs to do from here to become one of the so-called faces of the NFL, Denver linebacker Von Miller said, “In my opinion, I feel like he already is.”

When he was introduced for his first career start at Arrowhead last Sunday, the noise was so thunderous that Mahomes said he “couldn’t hear anything.” Meaning not even the noise itself.

“It really was something,” he said, “that I’ll remember my whole entire life.”

Just like right now, already, Mahomes is somebody we expect to remember our whole lives.

Drive anywhere in the area and you might see, say, a truck with #MAHOMES4MVP etched in dirt on the back, like reader Ann Woolley spotted on Gilham Road the other day. Or the MMHOMES Kansas license plate posted on Twitter the other day by another reader, Renee DeVault.

Then there are the countless Mahomes Memes, including the one with Mahomes dubbed in as Adam given life by the touch of God in the Michelangelo fresco (not to be outdone by the T-shirts at Hen House on 135th and Metcalf depicting Mahomes and reading PROPHECY FULFILLED on the front and SHOWTIME on the back.)

And the fact that Mahomes’ No. 15 jersey last week rose to sixth on Dick’s Sporting Goods national sales list. And that on Saturday, Rally House Plaza was down to child’s sizes Mahomes shirts and awaiting a fresh shipment of adult ones, or that West Side Storey’s “PATRICK IS MA’HOMIE” shirts furnished by Bellboy Apparel were selling at 10-to-1 compared to any others ... and being restocked as we walked in.

“We’re trying to keep up with the wave,” said owner Chris Harrington, who was reminded of the dizzying demand during the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 postseason runs.

But maybe nothing better represents the giddy anticipation of what suddenly seems possible with the arrival of Mahomes, who has thrown more touchdown passes (13) than any quarterback in NFL history through the first three games of the season, than a snapshot Tuesday in the University of Kansas Health System oncology unit.

Hundreds of people packed the hallway on the first floor of the University of Kansas Hospital to cheer Patrick Mahomes and other Chiefs quarterbacks as they finished their visit with patients.

Shortly before Mahomes left through a human tunnel of hundreds of KU Med staff members, longtime Chiefs season-ticket holder Jeanna Ribeau sat in the room of her son-in-law, Craig Malsbury, who has been in the hospital a month as he fights acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Waiting for Mahomes to enter, she spoke of how she can die a happy person now knowing the Chiefs are headed to a Super Bowl. Then she added, “Now I’ll probably go to like five, six. Maybe seven. Eight!”

When Mahomes came in, she had him sign the Arrowhead tattoo on her leg and him told Mahomes she thought he’d be “the best quarterback who ever lived.”

The week after Mahomes turned 23, he just smiled and said, “I appreciate it.”

No pressure, kid.

But the fact is that at least so far, on the field and off, Mahomes somehow seems to be navigating with remarkable equilibrium the rabid expectations of a fan base starved for its first Super Bowl in nearly 50 years.

In every discernible way, at least from the outside looking in, Mahomes remains grounded, owns his mistakes and seeks to improve and exudes confidence without a trace of cockiness. He deftly shares credit, is polite to a fault and looks interviewers in the eye. No moment yet has seemed too big for him … albeit with much bigger moments yet to be faced.

Part of his even-keeled disposition is innate, part of it is because of an upbringing that included being around professional locker rooms and athletes all his life since his namesake father was a professional baseball player for 11 years.

Part of it is learned from a year of watching consummate professional Alex Smith, and part of it is that he prefers to be a homebody who takes refuge in football.

Asked if he felt the weight of the city on his shoulders amid spectacles like the one as he exited KU Med, Mahomes more or less shrugged.

“Not necessarily. It was an awesome, awesome feeling just to see those people and the kind of passion and love and support that they’re showing for us, but I feel the same,” he said. “I come into this locker room, and these guys treat me exactly the same as they’ve treated me since I got here.

“We have a great room like that and I can just go out there and do my job and it helps to have all the guys I have around me that can make plays.”

It helps, too, that he seems to see football as his refuge from the semi-hysteria that Chiefs coach Andy Reid figures comes with the territory.

“If you are going to be a quarterback and do well, you are going to get a lot of attention,” Reid said. “What is real is what takes place on the field every week. He is wired the right way to handle that, he’s not going to let stuff get in the way.”

While Reid appreciates that Mahomes is out in the community like many other Chiefs, he added, “He is in here all the time. … You don’t have to tell him to be here; that’s not how he rolls. He comes in and you have to get him out.”

Where it all goes from here, of course, is another matter. Many young athletes have had promising starts only to come down to earth. Many have gone on to fruitful careers without elevating their teams to the top.

Moreover, Mahomes will be tested in new ways every week, and soon he will make some mistakes and even continued success will serve to build pressure.

While Mahomes can only be as good as his supporting cast, all eyes will be on him in ways no one Royal had to carry during their runs. And no player will have more influence on the Chiefs’ future.

But there also is little doubt that Mahomes is a prodigy of sorts, both in terms of his capacity for the game and his sense of self-awareness and perspective. And he has brought not just real hope, but true belief.

So why can’t he be the stuff that dreams are made of … and just maybe become the first Chief to be NFL MVP … and perhaps take them to a Super Bowl … and ultimately even have a monumental legacy?

KC Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid talk about the young quarterback’s adjustment to being the face of the franchise and a recognizable figure in Kansas City.

Vahe Gregorian

Vahe Gregorian is a Kansas City Star sports columnist.

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