Chiefs teammates love QB Patrick Mahomes as 'one of the guys' ... even if that's not really true

Nate Davis

AVENTURA, Fla. – The realization of what Patrick Mahomes' reality is like occurred belatedly to Austin Reiter.

"It's kind of funny, I think what a lot of guys on the team don't realize is how much of a celebrity he is," Reiter, the starting center for the Kansas City Chiefs, told USA TODAY Sports.

"I asked him recently, 'Hey, you seen this movie yet?' He's like, 'Nah, I can't. I gotta wait for it to come out (for home viewing).' That was when it hit me: The guy can't go to the movie theater – even with a hoodie to hide his hair."

Most American sports fans recognize Mahomes, the NFL's 2018 MVP, as a superstar. 

They also identify him with that signature 'frohawk, his distinctive voice and an arm which might have more juice than any other quarterback's in the league.

But teammates talk about him with a certain reverence because, to them, he's a normal, relatable, hard-working guy.

"He's just a really funny, cool dude. Honestly, like laid-back. I feel like people expect to hear a lot of different things about him, but he's really just chill," said defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon.

"One of the guys for sure."

Maybe that should have been obvious at Mahomes' pre-Super Bowl press conference Wednesday morning, when he wore a dark pullover and basketball shorts emblazoned with the Coca-Cola logo. Not exactly Versace and UGGs.

Apparently it's always been that way, ever since he joined the Chiefs out of Texas Tech as the No. 10 overall pick of the 2017 draft.

"He hasn't changed at all," said veteran punter Dustin Colquitt. "The wild thing is he's still the same kid trying to get on the field, trying to make an impression with Coach Andy Reid.

"He maintains that level head. Still approachable, still gives everybody the time of day, still answers every question. He doesn't get frustrated, just relishes his opportunities in the limelight and respects everybody that he comes in contact with."

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It probably helped that Mahomes grew up around pro sports, his father Pat Mahomes Sr. a veteran of 11 Major League Baseball seasons. The younger Mahomes often talks about being a kid in the clubhouse and shagging pregame fly balls at the Mets' old Shea Stadium.

But his parents also centered him.

"The best advice my dad and mom always gave me was just to be the best you you can be, and that was in everything – sports or class or whatever it was," said Mahomes, 24.

"Be the best person you can be."

It's evidently worked, because Chiefs players routinely land on terms like "humble," "hard-working," "down to earth" and "leader" when describing him. To a man, they say Mahomes hasn't changed one iota since replacing accomplished predecessor Alex Smith in 2018 after essentially redshirting his rookie year while watching Smith lead the club to an AFC West crown.

Reid said the ability to rally older men was just as important a consideration in moving up to draft Mahomes as was the quarterback's golden right arm.

The decision has panned out beautifully, the Chiefs needing only to beat the 49ers on Sunday to earn their first championship in 50 years. Along the way, Mahomes has won 27 of his 35 professional starts, including playoffs, dialing up 76 TD passes over the past two seasons.

Reiter, now with this third NFL team, also marvels at the mental aspects of Mahomes' success.

"I think his grasp of the game – the way he sees protections, the way he sees routes and defenses – just blows my mind given how young he is," he said.

"It's crazy to see how much knowledge he has of the game."

There is a fun-loving streak, too. Backup quarterback Chad Henne said Mahomes is "definitely humorous, he's not strait-laced – good ol' boy from Texas."

Kpassagnon recalled the superstar propping water bottles atop doors left ajar in training camp, dousing unsuspecting players and staffers who opened them during the dog days of August.

But it's the humility which primarily seems to resonate in the locker room, especially from a player who's joined Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Kurt Warner as the only ones to win league MVP and advance to the Super Bowl in their first three seasons.

"Just a regular guy – who just happens to be the best in the world at what he does," said left tackle Eric Fisher.

"He's just so normal ... even though he can't go out to dinner anymore."

Not that Mahomes seems to mind the celebrity, noting Wednesday that he would prefer to play his entire career in Kansas City.

"I think I ended up in the perfect place," he said.


Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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