Patrick Mahomes walked into a Kansas City hospital along with the Chiefs’ other quarterbacks, part of a pre-planned visit to lift the spirits of cancer patients. Before Mahomes walked through the facility’s doors, a crowd gathered near the entrance.
Doctors. Nurses. Employees. They all wanted a chance to meet him. Or at least see him.
They provided a loud ovation as Mahomes walked in, to which he replied, out loud, “Wow, didn’t expect this.”
It was 2018.
He’d started three career games.
Mahomes’ fame in Kansas City ignited quickly. He can still recall going to training camp in 2017 — before he’d even thrown a preseason pass — and seeing fans sitting on the hill of the Missouri Western practice fields wearing red No. 15 jerseys. Mahomes was merely the backup then, just there to learn from veteran starter Alex Smith, not take his job.
But at least here in Kansas City, Mahomes’ stardom arrived before his opportunity did. Before the NFL Most Valuable Player award sat inside his home. Before the Super Bowl trophy joined it. Back when he wore jorts and a T-Bones jersey to a NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway.
If this all seems like ancient history for a player whose name is on a contract paying him half a billion, well, it’s not to him. It’s relevant.
On Wednesday, Sporting Kansas City announced that Mahomes has joined its Major League Soccer ownership group, this after he’d already bought into the Royals and after his fiancee, Brittany Mathews, had come aboard as part-owner of the KC National Women’s Soccer League team.
Mahomes is now fully immersed in Kansas City’s sports culture, financially invested in those franchises’ future, a blueprint come to fruition that didn’t come from nothing. That early fame — or support, as he refers to it — prompted an emotional response.
“That’s exactly what it is — this community has embraced me from Day One,” Mahomes said Friday. “When I was behind Alex (Smith) and they were supporting Alex, they still showed me love. Whenever I came into the starting role, they always believed in me. I wanna show that same love back to the community that they’ve showed me this entire time I’ve been here.”
Mahomes met members of Sporting’s ownership years ago, including principal owner Cliff Illig and his son Mike, a co-owner. Later, he expressed an interest in owning a small piece of a team he’d seen Kansas City embrace with a string of sell-out crowds. He’d been part of those crowds since his rookie year. Showed up early. Stayed until the end.
The fandom was immediate. The business things take time, of course.
“Just kind of been building that relationship with the Illigs, the people at Sporting, just loving the way they run their business and how they really invested in that team,” Mahomes said. “And then my love of soccer, starting with Brittany. But I really wanted to be a part of it. (Brittany) had the NWSL team; that’s her thing. I wanted to do my own thing, in a sense.
“And then always supporting the Kansas City community. That’s such a big part of the Kansas City community with the soccer community that we have here, so being part of that was something special.”
A Kansas City resident for just four years, Mahomes’ constant presence in the community — which stretched to include his foundation, 15 and the Mahomies, in 2019 — is relatively new to this town.
But it’s a pattern with the player. Since childhood, Mahomes has shown a propensity to stick with those who stuck with him. He maintains the same tight-knit friends group he had throughout childhood in Tyler, Texas, participating in an ongoing text message thread that doesn’t even take a morning off for game days.
He will marry Matthews, his high school sweetheart, next year. His longtime trainer, Bobby Stroupe, remains his trainer today, even recently moving to Kansas City.
“I think one thing Patrick values is people who spoke belief to him,” Stroupe once told The Star. “People who saw in him what he saw before it was popular to see it.”
Kansas City did. But the loyalty is only part of the draw.
It’s the feel of Kansas City, too. The city is Midwestern friendly, but it’s prideful — it couldn’t be more vocal about what those who live here perceive to be an underrated stature. Mahomes embraces that pride. He’s joined it.
His family had hoped he would find an NFL landing spot most like home in Tyler, a town of about 100,000. They believe he’d have been successful in New York or Chicago or Dallas, to be clear, but the match wouldn’t have the same comfort.
When friends talk to him, they say he can’t talk enough about his love for his new home, a spot where he will raise his family as he’s tied to the Chiefs for the next decade.
He never really wanted to be famous, they add.
But it’s too late for that.
Mahomes is the city’s most recognizable face, if not its most recognizable name. A year ago, when friends visited from Texas, they debated which bar they should frequent that evening.
“You don’t understand, Mahomes replied. His arrival would turn the place into a frenzy.
His days of walking through the city unknown have long passed. His days of being adored everywhere he turns are here to stay.
As is he.