The story of "Magic Mahomes"
His game is a mystery to all of us. But these five people who know Patrick Mahomes best can explain the unexplainable, from legendary chips at Augusta to binging Chipotle.
All wizardry is a mystery to those who watch football in conventional terms. Occasionally, a talent emerges that forces us to rethink the quarterback position. Dan Marino’s hair-trigger release. Brett Favre’s cannon. Michael Vick’s speed. Peyton Manning’s pre-snap auctioneering. Aaron Rodgers’ biomechanics outside the pocket.
But it’s the quarterback with the dad bod pulling off stunts nobody’s seen before.
He prances and shimmies and high-steps before releasing the ball at a funky arm angle.
One play, it’s a lollypop floater. The next, it’s a low side arm. Comically low. As if Mahomes is playing craps. He’ll throw left-handed. He’ll unload bombs 60+ yards. No-lookers. Flicks. Soon, he’ll spiral one behind his back. When Mahomes takes off in his signature waddle, chiseled linebackers who run in the 4.4’s cannot catch him. Somehow, he almost always finds a way to deliver when the stakes are highest. The face of the NFL is now on the cusp of winning his third Super Bowl in four years. Nobody should be surprised if Allegiant Stadium, this Sunday night, serves as this athlete’s Jordan in Game 6 or Tiger at The Masters moment.
The impossible escapes may shock us, but not those who knew this quarterback before anybody else.
“The easiest way to sum it all up is ‘Magic Mahomes,’” says Coleman Patterson, one of the quarterback’s best friends since childhood. “He does this every single year where he makes 10 types of new plays every year. You’re watching the Baltimore game and he scrambles around like you’re watching backyard football and then he finds somebody who has a little bit of leverage and, boom. Moves the chains. He just has that clutch ‘it’ factor with anything that he does. Whether it’s ping pong or golf or a game-winning drive in the playoffs with a Super Bowl on the line.
“He has something else inside of him that when the lights come on, and something has to be done, he does it.”
Pressure is never treated as a vexing obstacle. Pressure is the direct source of his magic, something Mahomes craves and is able to manufacture on command. Patterson has witnessed this dynamic his entire life. Whether they’re all at a Nashville bachelor party throwing hatchets or exactly where Woods drained the chip of his life: Hole No. 16 in Augusta, Ga.
Most athletes claim to possess an internal switch. Here’s what it actually looks like.
Two weeks after the 2021 Masters, Mahomes and a few friends had the chance to play a round on the iconic course with a club member. Nobody’s allowed to fiddle around on their cell phones during game play, but Mahomes’ caddie thought the QB should know his cell was ringing nonstop. Two months prior, of course, Mahomes suffered his lone Super Bowl loss. Per NextGen Stats, he scrambled around for a cartoonish 497 yards before sacks and pass attempts in that 31-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The people calling Mahomes were his head coach (Andy Reid) and general manager (Brett Veach) to inform him that help had arrived. They were trading for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
“You could tell something in his demeanor changed,” Patterson says, “because he was like, ‘I got my blindside protected? I’m good.’”
Mahomes’ ball had landed in the bunker right of the green. But now? His adrenaline was pumping. He turned to another person in their group, said he was about to par the hole and was met with mocking doubt. At this angle? No way. He wouldn’t get the ball to stop rolling.
With one swing, his chip shot landed six feet from the cup. Mahomes drained the putt for par.
“A legendary moment,” Patterson says. “That’s one of the hardest up-and-downs you can get. We’re also at Augusta, which is one of the hardest courses you can ever play in general because of the speed of the greens, the layout of the course, how well it’s kept up with. You could feel another pep in his step. The energy came out of him.
“If you give him a little bit of momentum, he’s going to run with it.”
It’s true that Mahomes’ artistic game is the result of playing so many sports as a kid. He changes the geometry of the field with his arm and legs. But that only tells half the story. Ahead of Super Bowl LVIII, Go Long chatted at length with five people who know Mahomes best to solve the mystery of this magic. All articulate how the king of the football world just so happens to be this frizzy-haired, chubby, yes, Kermit-sounding QB from Tyler, Texas. It’s no wonder the son of a Major League Baseball player chose quarterback because this profession supplies pressure in endless supply. Exotic blitzes. Dropped passes. Sprained ankles. Third downs. Fourth quarters. A bowl of 71,000 rabid Ravens fans with a title on the line.
There’s no need to manufacture pressure in pro football.
Mahomes won Super Bowl No. 1 trailing by 10 points with 6 1/2 minutes left.
Mahomes won Super Bowl No. 2 on a high ankle sprain. In the second half, the KC offense was perfect.
This time, the Chiefs enter a third straight game as the underdog.
Here are the conversations with two childhood friends who stood up in Mahomes’ wedding and grew up playing sports with him into high school (Patterson and Jake Parker), his football coach at Whitehouse H.S. (Adam Cook), his basketball coach (Brent Kelley) and his No. 1 wide receiver at Texas Tech (Jonathan Giles). Being a multi-sport athlete his entire life helps. For fun, as a kid, he once tried swinging left-handed with a wood bat. He a hit a home run. College students filled up the rec center at Texas Tech to watch him play basketball. He’ll drive a golf ball 400 yards. Even his disciplined patience vs. the Ravens in the AFC title game reflects his mesmerizing ping-pong game — Mahomes makes you screw up.
As all five detail, the quarterback’s unique relationship with pressure is why he’s being discussed as an all-time great before the age of 30.
He has Super Bowls, as in plural, on the mind.
Go Long is your home for longform journalism in pro football.
Friend, H.S. teammate
When did you really see the it factor in Patrick Mahomes?
Patterson: Early on. Whether it was Little League dribblers — he always wanted the ball and he was always getting buckets. This goes back to first, second, third grade. He just dominated the floor. Always getting buckets. And then in baseball, he was the guy who threw the hardest on the mound, the guy nobody wanted to go up and face when he was pitching. If he was batting, he was dropping bombs 24/7. He was The Name in the area. Where we grew up in East Texas, he was “the dude.” And he’s playing up grades against guys who are older than him and still making a big impact. This dates back all the way to elementary school.
He’s coming up through the rise of 7-on-7 camps. This sport starts churning out quarterbacks on an assembly line where so many of his peers are taught exactly where your eyes should be going. The fact that Patrick is playing every sport he can has to create something different.
Patterson: When we were in high school, there was no clear-cut decision between baseball and football because he was really good at both. And he was really good at basketball, too, which was even crazier. He could’ve played college basketball. The thing about Patrick, you see these arm angles and it looks like he’s turning a double play. Or you see the way he scrambles around and he tosses the ball to somebody — and that’s something related to basketball. There are all these different styles and levels of creativity that he brings to that quarterbacking position that directly correlates to other sports. He’s able to remember the little things he did in baseball or basketball.
There was pushback from the NFL in how this style could translate, though. How did he stay true to who he was?
Patterson: I remember all of the TV co-hosts and podcasts and NFL prep Combine stuff: “Mahomes doesn’t have footwork. Mahomes has a weird arm angle. Mahomes has this or that.” Brett Veach and the Chiefs were like, “No, I love that about him and we can work with it.” It’s a lot like how Steph Curry really changed the game as far as shooting 3’s in the NBA — and now it’s become a normalized thing to where Damian Lillard and other guys are almost pulling up at halfcourt and draining 3’s on a regular basis. Now, the scrambling, athletic quarterback is a thing. He opened the door for more styles of play. Patrick can be a great pocket quarterback or he can scramble and backyard it and still dice you up. Not a lot of people knew the special talent Patrick was, but the Chiefs sure were able to cash in on it.
Where else have you seen just how different of a competitor he is?
Patterson: Axe throwing. We went on a bachelor thing in Nashville maybe five years ago. Everybody was trying to get a grip of it and figure it out. And then it started getting competitive and Patrick nails multiple bullseyes in a row to win at the end of the whole contest. And it’s like, “Of course he’s the one person who’s going to throw multiple bull’s eyes in a row to come back and beat everybody. Bull’s eye, bull’s eye, bull’s eye. And he wins it. I’m like, “Where did that come from? Nobody’s been hitting bull’s eyes all day.” When the lights turn on — and it’s time to get it done —he finds a ways to get it done. Every. Single. Time. Maybe there’s a day where that fades away. But I don’t see it any time soon.
How badly does he want a third Super Bowl?
Patterson: Our group text talks quite a bit. He’s more motivated than ever to go get it done this year. I would honestly say that about any year, because any chance he gets at success he’s going to give it his all, but I would like to say he’s more motivated than I’ve ever seen him to go get it done this year. They’re on a mission.
H.S. football coach
We are trying to figure out what goes into the magic. Everything we saw again in Baltimore. Was he making those plays in high school too?
Cook: Definitely. You see him doing things right now and you can remember little glimpses of him doing that. Now, it’s on a different level. A lot of that has to do with his understanding of the game. The complexity of the defenses that he’s seeing. Never giving up on a play, I want to say I heard Matt Nagy explain it one time. He talked about Patrick looking down the field and it wasn’t a recklessness — it was like a ruthlessness. It’s a different mentality. There are times where he could run for five yards, easily, but then the safety’s come off and he’s throwing the ball for 60 yards. You could see that when he was younger.
One was during the first round of the playoffs. Right before the half, he throws one to Dylan Cantrell. And it’s one where, man, he’s going back and forth. You can really see how difficult it could be at times to be one of his linemen. You’ve got a guy pinned one way and, man, he’s spinning back the other way. You definitely saw that magic from him where he’s extending plays.
It was easy to let Patrick do some things that you just wouldn’t let every other kid do. Most kids get fired from the position for doing things that he did, but over time you’re able to see, man, this guy right here? He’s a winner. He’s not going to do anything to try to put us in a bad position while he’s extending the play. Again, it’s making it hard on those linemen. My brother was our offensive coordinator and coached the O-Line during Patrick’s junior year. He’d said, “Man, he’s hard on these linemen. They got ‘em pinned and then, all of a sudden, he goes back around and it’s hard not to get a holding call.
We didn’t have RPOs with our plays. We did a lot of things where we would get into empty sets and we would run a draw and maybe throw some quick screens out there, but let the line block a little bit different where Patrick had the option to either run — if it was a light box — or he could throw one of the screens to either side in our running game. Predominantly, we were a zone team and, off of those zones, if someone off the edge was coming up, one of his receivers would just kind of give him a hand and Patrick turned what would be a running play into a passing play. So, we were doing our RPOs but we weren’t really calling them. We were going so fast with our up-tempo offense and Patrick and those receivers would see those things and we would allow ‘em to do that. Again, it goes back to that trust.
If you’re telling him, “You can’t do this, you can’t do that. This is how a quarterback’s supposed to…’ we’re not talking here.
Cook: One thing we did was we let him play. We didn’t put him in that box. Now, they’re playing against the 49ers and we could go on and on about the old West Coast offense, those roots and a lot of my early coaching had to do with that. It was 1, 2, 3 you throw it out, 1, 2, 3 hitch. You go through all your progressions. With Patrick, that’s really not the case. And I think that our tempo — us running as fast as we did — allowed him to be a little more creative than most quarterbacks. We just let him play. It was not always easy to do. We’ve got a coaching staff of 20 people. If I sat here and told you everybody was all on board, that’s not it. As Patrick led and got in a lot more games, it got a whole lot easier just to let him do what he did. You hear Big Pat say this all the time: “Players make plays.” He has said that since that since I’ve known him.
It’d be really easy for the coach to say, “This is the system I’ve had for decades and decades and decades.” It does take what you just said, knowing the players make plays and — if you think through that lens — you have the opportunity to create something special.
Cook: You have to look at his journey. Kliff (Kingsbury) is a huge part of this. Kliff allowed him to do that as well (at Texas Tech). He had Johnny Manziel before he gets Patrick, and so everything lined up for him. Now he’s with Andy Reid, who again is allowing him to do it. One of the older coaches out there. He’s been at the game for a long time. It’d be very easy for him to say, “This is the way you're going to do this,” and sit people on the bench. But Andy’s never been that guy. He’s always let his quarterbacks play and now he’s got the perfect one. That was kind of a match made in heaven.
Scouts around the NFL saw more reckless than ruthless in Patrick Mahomes’ game out of college. That was the mistake, wasn’t it? Teams didn’t realize he had plan holding the ball and extending plays 10, 11 seconds long — how did he find this fine line?
Cook: Kliff and I are sitting up there at that first Super Bowl and they’re down. Me and him just kind of look at each other: “Man, these people don’t know Pat. It ain’t over yet.” That joker is going to fight ‘til the very end and find a way to put himself and his team in position to be successful. … Pat Sr. would tell me all the time, “Coach, he did that in high school. There ain’t no way he’s going to be able to do this when he gets to college.’ There was a side to his Dad where he thought, “Man, he can’t do that.” And I remember sitting there at the draft party with him and we were talking about it and he’s like, ‘Coach, he did that down at the college level, but I don’t know if he’s going to be able to do it.” He never really doubted his son. That’s not it at all. I think it was more like he’s going to have to adapt his game. But Patrick has found a way to get that done within his game. And then the bending and turning. You’ve seen all the videos with him and Bobby (Stroupe) and how Bobby trains him a little bit different than how other people do. That’s a huge component. Some of the things that he’s doing, he’s watched Tom Brady and the way that he’s treated his body. I saw something this morning on Facebook messing with him about his dad bod but, I mean, he’s taking care of that dad bod and doing those stretches and things that people might think are a little unorthodox. It’s translating onto the field and it allows him to be able to throw the ball and move in some very compromising positions and still be able to throw the ball.
There was a moment in high school that he played through a broken foot? A Jones fracture?
Cook: And he played basketball as soon as he got done with us, went straight into it. We lose in the third round. We’re actually going down to win with 1:20 in the game. He throws a ball that hits off of a running back’s hands and it’s intercepted. And that was it. The very next day, Patrick’s in the training room and then he’s on the basketball court. And so we would get asked the question a lot: “Hey, what’s his favorite sport?” And I think it was whichever one he was in, whichever season was in. That was his favorite sport.
Many kids just specialize in being a quarterback. Then, you’ve got kids that say, “Hey man, Patrick plays all these sports. I’m going to play ‘em all.” This ain’t about just signing up and being on as many teams as he can. That’s not it! There’s a certain mentality. Patrick does an excellent job of keeping his mind where his butt’s at. And he developed that at a younger age. He was much more mature. There were ways that Patrick approached the game — as a professional athlete does — with a mentality of attacking that game, that play. Not every kid can do that. It’s not a switch you just turn on and off. For him, it comes so natural. We didn’t have a lot of offseason time with Patrick. I got to throw with him some. But he’s going from one sport to the next. We start football season in August and we’re going through until November and then he’s picking up the basketball and he’s going from basketball all the way ‘til January. There’s a little bit of overlap at the end of January, February where he’s got basketball and baseball. Then, he’s got summer travel ball. And so he was constantly competing and constantly going. We just got what we could get when we had him at quarterback.
Is that the secret sauce — “constantly competing?” Is that why we’re seeing something so different? He was never bred to play quarterback a specific way 24/7.
Cook: He’s not one of those manufactured quarterbacks like you’re talking about where he’s doing everything the way they want him to do it. And now he’s kind of broke the mold. Recruiting changed. Especially for our area. All the recruiters are wondering, “He’s a three-star quarterback. How did we miss this?” We’re looking for the next one. Who’s the next one that can do it? And everybody’s projecting them to be this and that, but there’s just so much more to it than just going out and snapping the ball and it happens.
Patrick has broken the misconception of the system quarterback. You’ve got so many of these guys that I think at times got overlooked because they’re just “a product of the system. They’re throwing for all these yards because that crazy unorthodox offense that they’re running. Now, that’s what they're looking for.
Central to his game is that ruthlessness. We might think we see somebody like Mahomes — Zach Wilson dancing all over the place, making crazy throws at BYU. But nobody has the same ruthlessness. He played through that broken foot in high school, then the ankle in last year’s Super Bowl.
Cook: I think Joe Burrow has a little bit of it. Burrow doesn’t get hurt this year, what’s happening? That ruthlessness. Again, he played multiple sports. It’s that ruthlessness, but it’s also that ruthlessness when you’re studying, when you’re watching the game and you don’t think you always know it all. You’re open. You’re learning. You have a growth mindset. I feel like he has that and he’s focused on one thing and it's just winning. It’s winning Super Bowls. That’s the No. 1 goal.
One thing that he always did — and I think this is magical — Patrick always made the people around him better. And I mean the receivers were better. The linemen were better blocking. I was a better coach when I had him. And I think everybody in Kansas City’s better right now because they got Patrick. He elevates them.
That’s the thing when we talk about him being a young athlete and competing. He understood, “Man, I’m competing here and I have an opportunity.” How many kids just get burned out and go through the motions? I’ve never watched Patrick in a game go through the motions. Ever. You hear Bob Knight talk about it all the time: These kids go out and are playing AAU basketball and they’re playing so many games in the weekend and they’re losing over half of them. They’re learning how to lose. And so they get conditioned to where it’s OK to do that. Patrick doesn’t have that. He’s there to win in every little thing that he does. One of the greatest competitors — the greatest competitor — that I’ve ever been around.
How does he make the people around him better? How do you quantify it?
Cook: Here’s the deal. Patrick walks confidently. I don’t know where that little joker picked that up. In a dugout or whatever. But he walks with his head high and that’s a big part of it. He just walks as though he believes he’s going to win and he has belief. They start to believe in themselves. And those guys — when everybody’s telling ‘em they can’t do it — you’re dropping the balls. You got all these penalties. I guarantee he’s constantly trying to tell them they can. They have a belief that, “Man, we can do this.” And he has a great ability of taking everybody along with him on that ride. Everybody in the locker room. He’d come up to me and tell me at times, “Hey coach, it’s so-and-so’s birthday” that practice. He was very inclusive in including everybody and never was it really about him. He just enjoyed the team, enjoyed the playing. That’s why I think that out of all the positions and sports he could have played, nothing out there — no other position — allows him to utilize all the gifts that he has, the natural God-given abilities of leadership and all that, like the quarterback position. You could get up on the hill, throw a hundred miles an hour and strike a lot of people out, but it’s not the same as being that quarterback out there and throwing directly to these guys.
Friend, H.S. teammate
When did you first realize that Patrick is different?
Parker: For me, it was the first time I saw him throw a baseball. You could just tell he was different. He threw harder than everybody. He knew the game. He knew how everything worked at a very young age when usually most kids that age don’t know what’s going on. I remember even we made a run to the World Series back in the day. My Dad was the coach and sometimes he’d even ask Pat, “Hey, what should we do in this scenario?” Just because Pat knew the game by age 13.
He could swing both left- and right-handed, right?
Parker: In little league we were beating a team and he went up there left-handed and with a wood bat. That was pretty crazy. He always swung in the batting cages kind of messing around a little bit left-handed. But his left-handed swing was better than a lot of guys’ right-handed swings. You could tell he could do it, and then we got a little bit of a lead on a team. So he just went up there left-handed and hit a home run. We were shocked.
What level was it?
Parker: We were 14 years old at that point when he did that. The Little League World Series that you see on TV? We were playing in the Junior League World Series, which was one grade above that. And our team actually went on to the championship and we were considered the best team in the United States. We won the United States Championship, but then we lost to Chinese Taipei in the championship on ESPN2. … It was earlier in our World Series run. You play the teams from Tyler first and you go out to sectionals, regionals and you go up. This was the first round (when he hit lefty). We weren’t playing against some scrubs.
How do you explain that that switch he flips within?
Parker: That’s just how he’s been in literally everything he’s done. If he loses in something, you can tell immediately there’s a flip that’s just switched. He gets in that competitive mode and just finds a way to win or do what he’s got to do to win. You see how he adapts in the playoffs, from his first Super Bowl win in 2019. It’s a little different than it is now.
As teammates in football, back in high school, was there a moment you still remember?
Parker: Not just one play, but I remember, I think it was the third game of the season. Him and one of our good friends, Ryan Cheatham, were battling for the starting quarterback position. And it was a tight battle. They were both badass quarterbacks honestly. But it was a game in the rain. Bad conditions. They were kind of switching out each series and then Pat, there was something that clicked. He took control of that game and they didn’t end up switching out. Pat took us throughout the second half and really excelled. It was like “This guy’s a little more than just a hard-throwing baseball player.”
H.S. basketball coach
In that AFC Championship Game, Patrick again looked like that quarterback fusing sports together. How does basketball — the way he sees the court — help him at quarterback?
Kelley: It’s vision. Baseball is a slow sport. In basketball, you’re making decisions constantly on the fly: Do I dribble it? Do I pass it? Do I shoot it? Do I draw this defender into this trap and then back out of the trap and hit this guy that’s open? So, it’s a lot of decisions on the fly. A lot of instincts go into that. And you can see it on the football field for sure.
Was basketball his first love?
Kelley: I’m pretty sure if you asked him that, he would tell you that. So when I got the job — it was going into his senior year — and my concern was this is a big-time quarterback, college quarterback. He’s probably going to get drafted and play baseball. Well, crap. Is he going to play high school basketball his senior year? And I’ll never forget. We talked about that when I interviewed for the job and the response I got from the athletic director was, “Oh, he loves basketball. There’s no way he won’t play.”
I remember you sending me a clip of a full-court bounce pass a few years back. How great could he really see the court?
Kelley: He just did things that not a lot of kids can do. It’s reading the safety, looking him off and pulling it the other way. The no-look passes. And that’s what he would do in basketball. The biggest thing is you have a split-second to make that decision. So, the game really slows down when he drops back and he’s got three or four seconds to make a read. And then obviously the arm talent is second to none.
When you’re playing basketball, you really have to make quicker decisions and you’re using your peripheral vision to process all moving pieces.
Kelley: We always talk about in basketball: Draw the trap, but don’t get trapped. If two people are going to trap you, draw them into you, but don't let ‘em trap you. You see these scramble plays where he’s running around and he’ll fake a pass and run it, or he’ll draw the guy in and then throw it right behind him where he came from. And a lot of that’s happening in a lot quicker time span in basketball.
That’s what he does when he’s scrambling all over the place. He’s pulling one, two, even three defenders his way. Maybe it's even subconscious at this point? Toying with these defenses. Has there been a play that you saw that brought you back to the basketball days?
Kelley: We were watching it last Sunday and the replay came up, and of course I was screaming. The play where he scrambled around forever and threw it to Kelce, and Kelce lays out and dives for it. The ability to extend the play and to trust Kelce to make that catch. I am not sure any other connection could’ve made that happen, and they’re both special people at their position. I’ve seen him do that multiple times in high school in different sports. You still watch it on Sunday and you’re like, “God, I can’t believe that just happened.”
To you, how much do you think basketball is the reason that we're seeing him pull off plays like that?
Kelley: It’s not the only reason. You combine the skillset from that and then from playing baseball his whole life and then all the intangibles that he has — and obviously he’s developed and turned into a great quarterback. It’s a little bit of everything. It’s being around a major league clubhouse when he was younger and seeing the way you do things and how pros go about it, day in, day out and being really blessed and then playing a lot of sports. It all came together. He’s the perfect puzzle.
How high of a level do you think he could have played basketball?
Kelley: He obviously could’ve played college basketball and he would’ve gotten a lot better in a hurry to compete at the Division I level because he would’ve devoted all his time to that. People ask me, “Could he have played in the NBA?” I don’t know just because he’s 6-3. Knowing him and how he is, he would’ve gotten himself to that point. Do I think he definitely made the right decision? Absolutely. But I just tell everybody, I wouldn’t bet against him if he would’ve chosen to go that path. He would’ve made it happen. I believe in him as a person and as a competitor that much.
I’m thinking D-III or D-II and you’re saying the NBA was realistic.
Kelley: That’s the belief in him.
Texas Tech Wide Receiver
When you think back to your time with Patrick, is there a moment that still makes your jaw drop?
Giles: As a receiver you’re with the QBs all day. Especially in that kind of offense with Kliff Kingsbury passing the ball. You see Patrick throwing the ball all practice long and the same plays he’s making now? He was making in practice. We’ve seen him in a scrimmage — a full-on scrimmage during spring practice — scrambling right and then just throwing it behind his back to the running back. In our head, when you first see something like that, you’re like, “Oh, man. That’s luck. He can’t really do that.” And then you start seeing it on a daily basis, and it’s “OK, he’s special.” Quarterbacks aren’t even thinking about doing something like that. And the fact that you are doing it this much and it’s successful? We’ve seen him scramble left and throw it all the way across the field, down the sideline on the money. Most of those, I was the one catching it, so I’m in awe. Even Louisiana Tech. The same play he made in the game was the same play we ran in practice. He was scrambling left and I’m running down in the back of the end zone with him and he just throws it facing the opposite way. An awkward movement. I was like, “Whoa. He really made that throw 70 yards down the field on a rope.” And then come that same week, he does the same thing in the game for a touchdown.
Only a matter of time before we see a behind-the-back pass in the game?
Giles: Oh yeah. And it’s crazy. Two guys in front of him and he didn’t want to just go out of bounds or throw it away. So he just kind of pump-faked, they jumped in the air and he tossed it behind his back as he’s stepping outbounds. I was like, “Ain’t no way he’s doing this!” Him doing it so much and him being successful doing it, why stop? Why not just keep going?
That’s at the heart of it all it seems — Patrick Mahomes tests new boundaries. He breaks rules quarterbacks have been told for years.
Giles: Exactly. Even the left-hand pass, he’s done that a thousand times really to the point where you never know. I remember Coach Kingsbury used to always tell the receivers: “When Pat is scrambling, you’ve got to keep moving.” It doesn’t matter if he’s getting ready to step out of bounds, you never know what he’s going to do. And it is true. You never knew what he was going to do. You always felt like when he scrambles, something big is going to happen.
So, we’re talking “Pistol Pete” Maravich way back in the day. Or, “White Chocolate,” Jason Williams with the Kings. It’s the same thing. Your head needs to be a swivel because that ball could be coming your way.
Giles: I know in college he used to always say his favorite player was Aaron Rodgers. He loved Aaron Rodgers. … He passed him. We’ve seen it all.
And he’s doing all of this with a physique you wouldn’t expect. Guys at Tech used to tell him to eat another cheeseburger.
Giles: He used to eat a lot. A lot. Anything. It didn’t matter what it was. But then this is the crazy part: You would see him eat and then when we’re doing sprints or some kind of conditioning or workout, he’s at the front! I’m like, “Ain't no way. You should be on the side throwing up or in the back of the line. Ain’t no way you’re eating this bad and then you’re at the front.” And then he’s not just in the front — he’s having fun with it. Laughing. Making jokes. He’s been a leader. He makes everybody better. But he does it in a different way. It is never negative for him. If you drop a pass or you miss the block, most QBs are just like coaches. They’ll get on you. But for him it’s like, “I’m going to go back to you again next play,” to let you know I know what you can do.
We’re talking about one of the most athletic quarterbacks of our time pulling off the craziest stunts we’ve seen. And then he takes his shirt off, and he looks like me with two kids.
Giles: That’s it. We were still up there every day before practice, after practice, all the weekends, running routes, throwing the ball, and then he’d go eat some fast food right after. I know for sure he loved Chipotle. I don’t know if you’ve been to Lubbock, Texas, but there isn’t much out there. You have a couple restaurants and everything else is fast food.
We made fun of how he did his little “Fat Man Jog.” The Fat Man Jog is the one thing we used to always make fun of him because he just looks so unathletic when he jogs like that. You see him jogging and you’re like, “Dog, why you jogging like that? Run!”
But nobody can catch him.
Giles: The crazy part. Nobody can catch.
Why is that?
Giles: I have no answer for that. He’s not a Lamar Jackson when he’s just full-sprint-speed faster than you. I guess it’s the way he moves? Sometimes when he’s scrambling, he’ll just pump-fake for no reason. He’ll be past the line of scrimmage and pump-fake while he’s running. And people would still jump.
He just did it against the Bills. Rasul Douglas fell for it.
Giles: He just pump-faked past the line of scrimmage, but guys don’t notice that because all they see is the QB running. So they’re trying to get him. When he pump-fakes you’re naturally going to jump.
When did you realize that he was special then? Did it ever click in your head that this could be an all timer?
Giles: I want to say my freshman year. And it wasn’t really even a game for me. It was watching him in practice. You would see him every day doing the exact same thing. Making the same tight-window throws. The same escapes, scrambling for 10 seconds and then just finding somebody down the field. Or throwing it left hand. He did that every single day. You know how sometimes you’ll see a crazy moment every once in a while in practice? This was every week. Besides the behind the back and the left-handed throws — he threw a no-looker. And this is the RPO. He’s reading the linebacker. The linebacker comes up and he’s looking at the linebacker. We have a slant on the left side and he’s looking at the linebacker while he’s throwing a no-look right behind him. On a rope. I’m talking in-stride. The receiver didn’t have to stop.
Could you see him tapping into different sports through his play style?
Giles: Even the side arm. If Pat is not in the pocket and he’s scrambling, most of the time his throw is not going to be something you get from a quarterback coach. It is going to be some kind of awkward, sidearm or just crazy kind of throw. But it’ll get there. You can’t really say anything because it’s on the rope. As a QB coach, how can you get mad at it?
Whether it’s Adam Cook or Kliff Kingsbury or Andy Reid today, all of his coaches never tried to get in his way to change him. They realized that he was something special and kind of gave him free reign. Would Kliff let him screw up?
Giles: For sure. I know a lot of people used to criticize him for some of the throws he made. But it was just like, “Is it the right read?” Yeah. “Did he catch it?” Yeah. “Was he open?” Yeah. So you can’t really get mad at what he’s doing. He’s still making the right read. He’s going through his progressions. It might not be the throwing motion or arm motion it’s supposed to be, but it’s getting there. At that point he just realized, “OK, he’s just a special guy, so now I’m letting him do his thing.”
Then, you’re getting blasted 66-10 against Iowa State and he’s playing through a shoulder injury. That’s the kind of stuff we saw in the Super Bowl last year. As a teammate, what kind of effect does this have? He could have shut it down.
Giles: If it’s third and 6 and “I can get seven yards by lowering my shoulder,” he was going to do it. As a teammate, you respect that. You knew he’s the leader of our team. He’s the quarterback and he’s playing through an injury and still putting his body on the line to win a game. So when I tell you he had everybody’s respect? From the trainers to the coaches, everybody, we all respected him. He wanted to play every game. When I say he loved it, he truly loved the game of football with a passion.
What’s something else about Patrick people don’t know?
Giles: Patrick Mahomes could have been a basketball player. When I tell you he loves basketball and is very good at it? He is. Basketball was my first love, too. So after spring practice — during spring ball — we would go to the rec and go play basketball. Every spring. Football practice would be over and the coach would call us up and then we’d break and yell, “To the rec center! To the rec center! To the rec center! It got to the point where students would come up during a certain time just to watch because they knew we would be up there. Springtime? That was our basketball season. We’ll hoop all day And we’re going against other students. So of course you see Pat Mahomes and we are all there playing basketball. They’re going to tell other people. Now, the rec center is packed.
How many people do you think were gathering just to watch you guys play?
Giles: I remember one weekend we went up there and it was packed. It looked like a basketball game was going to happen. We’re like, ‘Oh man, the rec is packed. We won't be able to play.” The court’s all filled. We asked, “Who got next?” And they were like, “Oh no, we’re not playing. We here to watch y'all!”
What kind of basketball player was he?
Giles: He’s a guard. He’s one of those guys that he’s going to get everybody involved. He’s going play defense. Like I said, he’s going to talk trash because that’s what he does best. And he can shoot too. And it is kind of one of those things where it’s like, “Pat, shoot the ball! I get you trying to get everybody involved, you being a QB on the basketball court. But you can shoot, too!”
A ruthless ping-pong player, too. Did you two have some battles?
Giles: We’d have workouts at 7 a.m., so Pat and I would get up at 6 o’clock and be there at 6:05 just so we can had time for a ping-pong tournament before we work out. That's how intense it got. Me and Pat used to go at it. I used to be scared like, “Hey, look Pat, I know we just went at that ping pong, but you can still throw me the ball in practice and in the game.” Because we would go at it.
You’re thinking he might ice you out.
Giles: “I’m like, ‘Hey Pat. We still cool? We still cool?!”
What was his style at the ping-pong table — slamming it? Backspin?
Giles: Oh, he’s finesse at the ping pong table. He’s not hitting it hard. He just got the little certain little spin to make the ball curve and bounce in weird ways. All finesse.
If he loses, how’s he taking the loss? It looked like he wanted to fight the refs earlier this season.
Giles: He’s competitive! And that’s anything. Ping pong, it’s like, “Hey Pat, calm down now. Relax.” He takes everything serious. Everything. I remember on my official visit, he was my host so I was with him the entire weekend. And I remember that first night I got in and then that next morning we played NCAA (the video game) and he was talking trash to me. I’m like, “Man, hold on. I’m just a senior in high school. Relax. I’m just trying to have fun.” And no, he’s trash-talking to me. So I already knew when I first got there what kind of person he was.
No mercy to someone deciding whether or not to go to Texas Tech.
Giles: I don’t care if you just trying to get here. It doesn’t matter. I’m going whip your butt. I’m going to talk trash to you about it.
Through this playoff run, I’m guessing nothing is surprising you.
Giles: It’s amazing. But it doesn’t amaze me watching him play and do the things he does because I’ve seen it so many times. People look at me crazy but I know how competitive he is. He’s got at least 12, 13 more seasons. And so you look at that and you look at the Super Bowls and how many appearances he already has, I said he’s either going to tie Tom Brady or he’s going to have more rings.
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