Patrick Mahomes entered the N.F.L. with all the gravitas of a fifth grader playing touch football at recess. He escaped from the pocket like Houdini and contorted himself like Gumby, whipping the ball around as if he thought the game was supposed to be fun, not just the rote execution of a militaristic offensive scheme.
He was just 22 at the start of his first full season as the Kansas City Chiefs’ starting quarterback. Today, after five Pro Bowl selections, a Super Bowl victory and a Most Valuable Player Award, Mahomes somehow still seems 22: He remains exuberant and unrehearsed, the player to watch on Sunday when Kansas City meets Philadelphia in the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
But something happened to Mahomes on the playground: He grew up.
Now 27, he arrives at his third Super Bowl as a man in full — a businessman, a beloved figure and meaningful contributor to his adopted hometown and a confident voice on race issues. And with the (apparent) retirement of Tom Brady, he is something like an elder statesman at quarterback, older and more settled than Josh Allen, Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson (all 26), Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts (both 24) and Trevor Lawrence (23).
“I have two kids now, I’m married,” Mahomes said. “I’m kind of an old soul.”
It is strange to think of Mahomes that way, given that he plays quarterback as if he had drawn his receivers’ routes in the dirt with a stick. But the evidence of his maturity is everywhere, particularly in Kansas City, where he is on his way to becoming the kind of personage that Jim Kelly is in Buffalo and Roger Staubach is in Dallas.
He has invested heavily in the city’s sports franchises, becoming a minority owner of Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals and Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City. He also recently joined his wife, Brittany, as a co-owner of the city’s professional women’s soccer team, the Current.
In a city with a long record of racial discrimination, Mahomes has focused on equality. In 2019, Kansas City, Mo., voters decided by a wide margin in 2019 to change the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard back to its original name, Paseo Boulevard. Mahomes and his foundation, 15 and the Mahomies, then put up more than $1 million and teamed with the parks department to build a playground in an area where Black residents have long lived because discriminatory housing covenants kept them out of other neighborhoods.
Today at the playground in Martin Luther King Jr. Square Park, middle schoolers scramble on red and yellow jungle gyms and toddlers squeal as the lime green carousel spins. Grown-ups read King’s inspirational quotations embedded on its surrounding rock walls.
So far, Mahomes’s foundation has given more than $2.7 million through 125 grants to organizations aimed at helping children in underserved areas.
“The foundation has been pretty intentional about its focus on social justice,” said Marques Fitch, one of its board members.
Dive Deeper Into Super Bowl LVII
- Inside a Kansas City Oasis: Big Charlie’s Saloon is a South Philadelphia bar with a bit of a conundrum: how to celebrate Kansas City’s Super Bowl berth without drawing the ire of locals.
- Philadelphia Swagger: After surviving a disastrous introductory news conference, an ill-chosen flower analogy and his “Beat Dallas” motivational shirt, Nick Sirianni has transformed the Eagles, and maybe himself.
- Matching the A’s: Despite having left town in 1954, the Athletics are still Philadelphia’s most decorated team, with five championships. The Eagles could tie things up on Sunday.
- Halftime Show: Rihanna, who last performed publicly at the 2018 Grammys, will return to the stage for the first halftime show under the N.F.L.’s new sponsorship deal with Apple Music.
Mahomes — whose father, Pat, a former pitcher in the big leagues, is Black and whose mother, Randi, is white — has been candid about race issues in the N.F.L. as well. In 2020, he was among the star players who produced a video asking the league to admit that its response to player protests of police brutality was wrong and to condemn racism and affirm its support for Black lives.
The next day, Commissioner Roger Goodell released his own video admitting that the league was wrong and saying he stood with the players.
Before the 2020 elections, Mahomes and a teammate, Tyrann Mathieu, asked the Chiefsto partner with RISE, a nonpartisan organization that educates athletes about voting and registers them to vote. Mahomes — who, in a perhaps belated sign of maturation, was voting for the first time — contributed to the six-figure cost of buying new voting machines so Arrowhead Stadium could serve as a polling location.
“For a young person to become the conscience of the community of where he works and lives is already impressive,” Alvin Brooks said of Mahomes. Brooks, 90, a former police officer and City Council member, has been at the center of civil rights battles in Kansas City for decades.
“He makes good money and is spending some of it to do good,” Brooks said. “He is not only going to continue to grow in his craft, he is going to grow in his consciousness.”
In training camp this season, Mahomes spoke up for himself and other Black quarterbacks after he read an article in which an unidentified coach asserted he was not an elite quarterback because “he plays street ball.”
“Obviously, the Black quarterback has had to battle to be in this position that we are to have this many guys in the league playing,” Mahomes said. On Sunday, he will face the Eagles’ Hurts, the first time two Black quarterbacks will start in a Super Bowl.
“Every day, we’re proving that we should have been playing the whole time,” Mahomes continued. “We’ve got guys that can think just as well as they can use their athleticism. It’s always weird when you see guys like me and Kyler” — a reference to Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray — “kind of get that on them when other guys don’t.”
Along with personal growth, Mahomes has experienced rapid growth in his bank account and the size of his household. In 2020, he signed a 10-year contract extension, worth $503 million, with Kansas City. He is also a well-paid pitchman (he earned $22 million in endorsements last year, according to Forbes), popping into our living rooms often to sell State Farm insurance.
On Nov. 28, Patrick and Brittany Mahomes had their second child, a boy, Patrick Lavon Mahomes III. His nickname, Bronze, was suggested by Patrick Mahomes’s younger brother, Jackson, as a way to link the boy with his sister, Sterling, who is almost 2.
“We wanted them to have that connection and them to be brother and sister forever,” Mahomes said.
None of this escapes the attention of the media, and that presents a challenge for Mahomes. The birth of his children, his off-season trips (the purse he wore to the Coachella music festival was widely mocked) and his family’s social media accounts are closely tracked by People, Us Weekly and other outlets in the celebrity industrial complex.
Perhaps in response, Mahomes has become sophisticated about shaping his image. When he and Brittany bought their home in Kansas City (the first either had owned), Mahomes showed off his collection of 180 pairs of sneakers in a YouTube video that portrayed him as easygoing and a little dazzled by his own good fortune. More recently, Mahomes introduced his own shoe designed with Adidas with a brief and highly produced Instagram post.
Mahomes is still working on how to balance his family life with his other obligations. He grew up accompanying his father to the ballpark over his 11 M.L.B. seasons. When Pat Mahomes played for the Texas Rangers, a young Patrick would put baseballs on hitting tees for Alex Rodriguez for hours as the shortstop worked on his swing.
Mahomes vowed to emulate that commitment. With everything happening in his life now, he said, he is more conscious of wasted time, especially when it comes to Sterling and Bronze.
“I still have the same mind-set and the same process that I go through any and every week,” he said. “But trying to find those little moments where I just spent a little bit more time is always something that I prioritize.”
If new priorities, sleep-deprived nights or occasional subpar performances have distracted the quarterback, his teammates have not noticed.
“I don’t think that’s ever going to slow him down,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “Pat pushes through that kind of stuff. He stays accountable to the guys around him.”
Kansas City Coach Andy Reid said Mahomes knows that the organization and the community are asking more of him than merely being the best quarterback in the N.F.L.
“When you are famous and when you are a new dad and all of these other things he’s already gone through, that’s a unique position because you’re the face of the organization,” Reid said. “It’s important that you handle it.”
Alain Delaquérière contributed research.