The text exchange happened on Nov. 30, 2018. Fourteen months ago.
Christmas was coming, and my mother-in-law wanted jersey ideas for my 8-year-old son.
Well, I thought, he’s a football nut already addicted to the RedZone channel on Sunday afternoons. And my in-laws lived in Kansas City.
“Why don’t you try to find Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs, No. 15?”
Luke wasn’t exactly a Chiefs fan — in fact, he loved Tom Brady — but this was Mahomes’ breakout season. How could a third-grader not love watching a quarterback fire 60-yard lasers downfield? I should’ve known better.
When my son opened his Christmas gift and saw the bright red jersey, he immediately frowned. I can’t wear this, he said. I’m a Patriots fan.
A few weeks later, redemption knocked on my door. One of his best friends — a big Chiefs fan — had a birthday party. So I did what any cheap father would do. Over my wife’s protests, I suggested we regift the Mahomes jersey.
All these other kids will wrap a $20 movie gift card or a Nerf football. But we’ll package a $60 jersey! We’ll be the hit of the party!
It all went according to plan. Just one problem: I assumed my son knew to keep his mouth shut.
When his buddy opened the brand-new Mahomes jersey, Luke immediately spilled the beans.
“Yeah, I got this for Christmas, but I didn’t want it.”
One year later, Mahomes is Super Bowl MVP. Tom Brady is a free agent. And my 9-year-old son, who rooted against the Chiefs on Sunday night, is in for a long decade.
Choose your favorite team wisely, kids.
Today, at fourth-grade lunch tables across Omaha, I can only imagine the Mahomes fanfare. I hope the next generation of play-callers doesn’t forget the one play that changed the game.
One play. That’s the headache in defending the Chiefs. That’s the reason Mahomes is the most awe-inspiring quarterback of my lifetime. You can pressure him, blitz him, dam him up for a quarter or a half or, in the 49ers’ case, 3½ quarters! But Kansas City is always one play away from flooding your basement.
The one play of Super Bowl LIV came with 7:13 left in the game, right after Joe Buck said, “Chiefs need some Mahomes magic.” On third-and-15 from the Kansas City 35, the Niners’ ferocious front four descended on Mahomes again. At that precise moment, this looked like yet another Super Bowl where a great pass rush beats a great quarterback. A season that ends with America never getting a chance to see what Kansas City could really do. According to the analytics, Kansas City had a 95% chance to lose!
But ... one play. Always one play.
Mahomes spotted Tyreek Hill deep. And somehow, that once-in-a-generation arm summoned the strength to heave a spiral 56 yards. Hill reeled it in at the San Francisco 22. From there, the Chiefs took over, just as they’d done at Arrowhead in the AFC playoffs.
Bye bye, Brady. Sorry, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. Patrick Mahomes is the face of the NFL. And as LeBron James enters his late 30s, Mahomes, 24, should soon be the biggest star in sports, too.
Who could’ve imagined this three years ago when Mahomes was considered a reckless gunslinger from Texas Tech? A guy who piled up empty statistics against laughable Big 12 defenses.
The Bears famously preferred Mitchell Trubisky. Any other team could’ve traded up to grab Mahomes, too. The Chiefs boldly made a deal with Buffalo and picked Mahomes 10th overall. Andy Reid knows quarterbacks.
I asked Twitter followers Sunday night how many rings Mahomes will win in KC. With more than 1,100 votes cast, the tally looks like this:
Maybe last year’s AFC championship game at Arrowhead was a moment too soon. Brady’s last hurrah. But there’s no doubt anymore. We’ve fully entered the Mahomes era. There will always be competition, be it Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield or Joe Burrow.
But Mahomes’ combination of talent and intangibles (poise, leadership, moxie) is unique.
What’s it mean for Omaha? Well, the days of seeing Mahomes in your Nebraska Furniture Mart or Hy-Vee commercials are probably over. (Please, Patrick, how are they going to sell TVs without you?!)
It also means the Chiefs bandwagon is filling up. For decades, Omaha has been an NFL mutt. A home for Packers and Broncos and Cowboys and Bears and Vikings and, well, just about everybody. Mahomes will change the dynamic.
He’ll be the one our kids imitate at recess. He’ll be the jersey we buy at Christmas. No regifting necessary.