Chiefs’ Mahomes juggles on-field success, off-field stardom

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates as he comes off the field after an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs won 38-27. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes had just finished with a series of patients in the oncology unit at the University of Kansas Hospital when he stepped on an escalator that would carry him to the exits.

Waiting for him at the bottom was a mob of hospital workers.

Some wanted a quick picture. Others were content with an autograph. But most just wanted to glimpse the hottest thing in Kansas City these days, the 23-year-old quarterback with the curly Mohawk and easy smile whose record-setting performances have helped the Chiefs to a 3-0 start heading into Monday night’s AFC West showdown in Denver.

“It was an awesome, awesome feeling,” Mahomes recalled a few days later, “just to see those people and the kind of passion and love and support that they’re showing us.”

It’s a good thing Mahomes prefers takeout to restaurants, and would rather study game film on his birthday than spend a night on the town, because everybody wants a piece of him these days.

The Chiefs’ communications staff is receiving hundreds of interview requests each week for their first-year starter, one front-office official said. They have had to limit the number Mahomes actually conducts to a handful that he can squeeze into a short time period on Wednesday afternoons.

There are requests for community appearances — his event at the hospital was set up by the club’s community outreach team. There are requests for sponsorships and endorsements and business deals, not to mention the hundreds of autograph requests that have flooded the team’s offices.

All for a quarterback with four total starts on his resume.

“It’s pretty cool,” Mahomes admits, “just to see the support we have. It’s unmatched, Kansas City and the Chiefs Kingdom, the support they have for us. For me to just kind of be in the community and see those people is always a good thing.”

Mahomes has the right temperament to deal with the demands, though. His father, former big league baseball player Pat Mahomes, instilled in him at a young age to take success in stride.

It’s something that became apparent to Chiefs coach Andy Reid during the draft process.

“That 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.

“I appreciate him going out and doing those things. Kids and people love him being out there,” Reid continued. “That he is willing to do that is part of him and the person he is.”

That was evident this past summer, when Mahomes showed up just about everywhere in town. He threw out the first pitch at a Royals game, and wore a cutoff jersey of the local minor league team, the T-Bones, when he was part of pre-race festivities for the NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway.

But what Reid appreciates more than anything is Mahomes’ ability to separate his work off the field from his work on it. There might not be a player on the roster that spends more time at the practice facility than Mahomes, so much so that Reid often has to tell his young star to go home.

“When he’s not there, he is in here,” Reid said. “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.”

Nor does Mahomes crave the spotlight.

When the Chiefs rolled past the 49ers last week, and everyone was talking about the sandlot play in which Mahomes ran about 60 yards before delivering a strike to Chris Conley in the back of the end zone, the quarterback said the key to the play working out was his wide receiver getting open.

Never mind that the 49ers had Mahomes corralled for what should have been a loss.

“He’s not trying to be the hero or do all of that. That’s not his deal,” Reid said. “He is trying to play the position within the offense and do his thing. If things don’t work out he moves around and gets it in his guys’ hands as fast as he can. He has a pretty good feel for that.”

Reid hasn’t gone out of his way to ensure Mahomes doesn’t become bogged down in requests, mostly because it hasn’t been necessary. Mahomes is already good at managing his time.

Besides, there is little extra time for an NFL quarterback once the season starts.

“There’s still room for a ton of improvement,” Mahomes said. “There’s still stuff that I might not go to the right read, or we might have a bust in the route running or everything, protection might break down. That just speaks to the guys that we have that can still make plays.”

As important as they are, though, it’s Mahomes that everybody wants to see.

“It was an awesome, awesome feeling just to see those people and the kind of passion and love and support that they’re showing,” Mahomes said, reflecting again on his day off spent with hospital patients. “But I feel the same. 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.”

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