KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes was just 5 years old in 2000 but still recalls the reaction of the fans at Shea Stadium when his father, Pat, with an ERA of over 5.00, would come in to pitch for the New York Mets.
It made an impression on the younger Mahomes that maybe the big city wouldn’t be the best place for him if he someday played sports professionally.
“He started pitching badly, and right away when he got in the game, he started getting booed,” Mahomes said. “I got to see that firsthand as a young kid.”
When Mahomes signed his 10-year contract extension over the summer, it almost guaranteed he would play most — if not all — of his career in Kansas City, one of professional football’s smallest markets, with a metropolitan population of 2.14 million people. After Green Bay, Kansas City is perhaps the closest thing the NFL has to an anti-New York, and it could be the home of one of the league’s biggest stars through the 2031 season.
In fact, Mahomes — a regular around town — has expanded his involvement in the city with his 15 and the Mahomies Foundation, which benefits Kansas City-area children, as well as becoming a part owner of Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals.
Mahomes signed such a long extension for football reasons, of course. In February, the Chiefs won their first Super Bowl in 50 years and appear set for a dynastic run. Mahomes loves playing for coach Andy Reid and with this group of teammates. He said he has faith that 42-year-old general manager Brett Veach will continue to build a championship team around him after all of his teammates have moved on and even if the 62-year-old Reid decides at some point in the next 12 years to retire.
But as part of the deal, he’s also getting Kansas City. It’s a town where he says he can still go out at times without being bothered. He’s choosing Kansas City over places such as New York, Los Angeles and even Dallas, which isn’t far from his hometown of Tyler, Texas. He said he’s fine with that part of it, too.
“People have been generous here,” Mahomes said shortly before the Chiefs started training camp. “They’ve been nice to me and my family, and so I’m excited to have my future here. You go to some sports cities and if you’re playing badly on Sundays, it’s like they hate you and your family. Then you come to Kansas City and it doesn’t even matter. They care about the person you are and how you treat other people. It’s cool to be in a city like this.”
Mahomes could be paid as much as a half a billion dollars over the 12 years of his contract, and that still might end up being a steal for the Chiefs. Not just because of Mahomes’ talent, but because the quarterback salary market might have left his deal far behind by 2031. But Veach and the Chiefs didn’t have to talk Mahomes into staying. It was something he wanted.
“He understands that there needs to be a sense of long-term thinking,” Veach said. “[He said,] ‘I want to win a long time here in Kansas City. There are only certain ways that this can be possible, and this is what’s important to me. I know I’m going to be taken care of the rest of my life, but I want to leave behind a legacy. And Kansas City is the place I want to do it.'”
Mahomes, whose face can be seen during commercial breaks on Sunday almost as often as during Chiefs games, wouldn’t be the first top NFL quarterback to play most or all of his career in a smaller city and still enjoy plenty of national attention. Brett Favre played 16 seasons in Green Bay. Peyton Manning spent much of his career in Indianapolis. Aaron Rodgers plays for the Packers. In terms of national popularity or endorsement opportunities, those players were not hurt by playing in a smaller market. It didn’t harm the league, either. At Super Bowl LIV, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked what he thought of Mahomes’ playing in Kansas City.
“Patrick Mahomes anywhere in the NFL is good for me,” Goodell said. “Not only is he an incredible player, but he is an incredible young man. Wherever he plays in the NFL, he’s going to have an impact. I’m proud to have him as a Kansas City Chief. I guess there are 31 other teams that wouldn’t mind having him, either.”
Mahomes has been such a success during his two full seasons as an NFL starter that it’s easy to conclude he could thrive playing anywhere, including New York. In 2018, his first season as a starter, he made the transition with ease. He became only the second player in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, and was named the league’s MVP.
Last year, his stats were more modest, but he was spectacular in the playoffs and in Super Bowl LIV, where he was named the game’s MVP.
Playing in Kansas City could give Mahomes a better chance to succeed long term. Dick Vermeil, who coached the Philadelphia Eagles and later the Chiefs, recently said the fan bases of the teams are similar with regard to their passion and loyalty. The difference, he said, is that Chiefs fans are far more forgiving when the local team loses and the star players don’t fare well.
Reid coached in both cities as well. He was with the Eagles for 14 seasons and is now in his eighth season with the Chiefs.
“I know he loves it here,” Reid said. “He understands the benefits of community. We saw that when he came here and how he reached out and put himself out there with the community. It’s a great place for him to live. I think the fans respect him, and when he needs a little space, he can get the space, but at the same time, he can still be the quarterback of this franchise.
“He could survive anywhere. He’s wired that way. But this is a good place for him. I think he’ll thrive here.”
Mahomes began to take over Kansas City not long after he replaced Alex Smith as the starting quarterback in 2018. He appeared in local television commercials and on cereal boxes. Before the pandemic, Mahomes could be seen around town at baseball or soccer games, NASCAR races or concerts. This summer, he got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Brittany, in one of the suites at Arrowhead Stadium.
Mahomes further planted a flag in Kansas City over the summer by purchasing a piece of the Royals. And it’s not like the Royals and owner John Sherman, who took over the team in 2019, went looking for Mahomes. It was Mahomes who contacted Sherman.
“He saw this as a way to double-down on Kansas City,” Sherman said. “When we acquired the team last November, we put together a great ownership group here … all people who loved baseball and loved Kansas City. Patrick kind of met that criteria. He did it for the right reasons. I felt like it was good for Kansas City, good for the Royals and also good for him. He’s got an interest in the game, and I think he also sees this also as a way to learn a little bit about the business of the game.
“He comes from a baseball background. He clearly loves the game. He chose football for his profession, but he’s certainly embracing Kansas City in a big way. That means a lot to us.”
Mahomes could have asked to join the ownership group of 29 other baseball teams. But he said he wasn’t interested in owning a team anywhere besides Kansas City.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “I’m going to be here a long time. I want to keep doing what I can to put roots down and trying to make the franchises, the Chiefs and the Royals, the best they can be. I wanted to be a part of the Royals baseball team. Being at the games, knowing the atmosphere in Kansas City, how much everybody loves the Royals and the Chiefs. I thought it was a good fit.
“I’m going to be in Kansas City for a long, long time, and I want to make sure that people know that as much as they’re passionate about the Chiefs and how we play, I’m passionate about being a part of Kansas City. If that’s through my foundation, trying to help the kids in Kansas City, playing game days here at Arrowhead Stadium or just being a part of things like the Royals, I want to find ways I can ingrain myself into the city that has shown me so much loyalty and passion every Sunday.”