Mahomes is an undeniable Superstar athlete, a sports celebrity recognised the world over and the exuberant, youthful face of today’s NFL. But in his meteoric rise to fame and acclaim, former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who is poised for an NFL comeback, played an integral role.
When thinking of NFL, Patrick Mahomes is the first name that springs to mind nowadays. The name is practically synonymous with the game – that is, unless you’ve been living under a rock over the last couple of years, totally oblivious to the comings and goings of current events, news, media.
Frankly, to be fair, one doesn’t even need to be an avid football fan or have any knowledge of the nuances of America’s beloved game to recognise the name: Patrick Mahomes. Bearing in mind the record-breaking contract Kansas City Chiefs just tossed his way is only dominating headlines across all media channels.
Record deal. Largest football contract in NFL history. Richest contract. $503 million. All eye-catching phrases popping up within assorted headlines, jockeying for public attention, telling all and sundry just what a big deal Mahomes really is to the NFL, to sports in general.
It’s not every day, an athlete is promised half a billion dollars. In fact, it’s a first. By which token, Mahomes is catapulted to stratospheric superstar-heights, into sports lore forevermore.
As the youngest player to win both a regular season and Super Bowl MVP, before the tender age of 25, and the quarterback to end Kansas City’s 50-year Super Bowl title drought, accomplishing the feat in only his second year as a starter, Mahomes joins an elite class of American athletes. So-called household names, athletes such as Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez, Phil Mickleson, Michael Jordon, LeBron James, Michael Phelps, Serena Williams and Venus Williams … amongst several other championship-pedigree athletes that are either active and retired and that have transcended their sport.
What’s particularly poignant about Mahomes’ meteoric rise is that it’s the stuff of fairy tales. A feel good story that is the culmination of boyhood hopes and dreams being realised in sensational fashion, reaching the pinnacle of achievement on the biggest stage in mainstream American sports. And by all accounts, there’s more to come from the young quarterback. Well, 10 years, at the very least, in Kansas City certainly.
And yet, wholesome, fulfilling, inspiring though Mahomes’ story may be, sports stories go beyond the realisation of ultimate success. Often, athletes attain their sports dreams just by virtue of becoming professional athletes in their chosen sports. Never mind not every story goes to plan from there onwards.
Indeed, prior to Mahomes’ rise within Kansas City’s ranks, former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, a No.1 draft pick in 2005, is a perfect example of an athlete that has been through the emotional wringer. Smith was at the helm from 2013-17 and led the Chiefs to the playoffs in four of the five seasons he spent with the franchise before losing his starting role to Mahomes. In his first season with the Chiefs, he revived a team that went 2-14 SU in 2012 to an 11-5 SU winning outfit.
Smith was drafted first overall fifteen years ago by the San Francisco 49ers before his job was ultimately snatched away by up-and-coming talent, Colin Kaepernick. Then he was traded away from Kansas City, after his best statistical season, to make way for yet another talented newcomer in Patrick Mahomes. Only to suffer a horrendous injury as a starter in Washington on November 18th, 2018.
Smith was a one of the Top 5 quarterbacks in Kansas City Chiefs history. In spite of his evident success with the Chiefs, the franchise nevertheless made a bold move in the 2017 NFL draft, giving up a king’s ransom to take Mahomes with the 10th overall selection. Apparently, head coach Andy Reid had spent time getting to know Mahomes prior to the draft, locking himself in a room with the Texas Tech hopeful at one point for six hours to pick his brain. Therein began the love affair.
While Smith stayed for another year, effectively mentoring Mahomes into the franchise quarterback he was to become, he left Kansas City at the start of 2018 for Washington. Alas, Smith’s stint in Washington came to an abrupt and gruesome end midseason when he suffered a devastating injury that shattered multiple bones in his leg. What followed is just unimaginable strife and tribulation: 17 surgeries on his leg since 2018 and a battle with sepsis that nearly forced an amputation.
When considering feel good stories, a successful comeback by Alex Smith would be one such heart-warming tale that everyone – Patrick Mahomes included – will be rooting for in the coming season. Two years after suffering one of the most horrendous leg injuries in NFL history, Smith has been cleared to play in the NFL again. He is expected to launch his comeback in Washington at the start of season in September, assuming he gets the starting job.
After the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV, Mahomes, in his postgame press conference, specifically mentioned Alex Smith and how instrumental the veteran quarterback was in his development in the one year they spent together in Kansas City. “I learned a ton from Alex Smith,” Mahomes said. “I attribute a lot of my success, especially so early in my career, to him.”
He went on to compliment Smith’s workmanship, dedication and professionalism, “he didn’t hold anything back from me. He taught me. That’s just the type of person he was, and he is.” Moreover, quite humbly, maturely even, Mahomes also acknowledged that Smith built the culture in the Kansas City Chiefs locker room that he was so fortunate to inherit. “I think that’s the biggest thing. He built the culture that I came into. He was the guy that led the team to all these successful seasons and built that winning culture.”
Following Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory, Alex Smith was apparently one of the first to congratulate Mahomes and the Chiefs. Head coach Andy Reid was quoted, “I joke about it, but it’s true: Patrick couldn’t pay Alex enough for what he gave him with that experience.”