Beyond the otherworldly arm and instincts and poise that have made him all the rage of the region and an early candidate for NFL most valuable player, the next thing you might have noticed about Patrick Mahomes is the fascinating voice of the young man who is amplifying everything for the 4-0 Chiefs.
With a gravelly fusion of Muppet and Texas twang, Mahomes’ speech is as distinct as his game as he becomes, well, an emerging voice of the people.
So much that it’s launched numerous memes and inspired imitators, such as my wife, a master of voices who had a different one for dozens of dolls as a child and has been sharpening her version of Mahomes’ intonations for week. The other night, we scoured old Sesame Street clips and debated which character Mahomes’ voice most resembled. Bert won in the moment, but it’s in the ear of the beholder.
Curiosity that it has been to me, though, it always felt like it would be just kind of rude to bring up the topic. Until Mahomes did it himself in an interview with ESPN before the Chiefs’ 27-23 victory at Denver on Monday, noting that when his teammates might think his head is swelling, “They just kind of bring out the voice.”
While that’s largely a point of levity now, Mahomes said something Wednesday that makes for a meaningful takeaway — especially for youngsters who might be self-conscious about a trait that’s simply different than others’. Mahomes remembers being teased about his voice as far back as seventh grade, which either was when it started changing or, if memory serves, exactly when kids start pouncing on anything dissimilar.
And here’s how he handled it:
“It’s something that I’ve kind of embraced,” he said, later adding that the key was “just being comfortable with yourself. I mean, it’s me, it’s who I am. So I’m never going to be insecure about it; I just kind of embrace it and keep going.”
Which is why he can appreciate it now when the voice is invoked by teammates … and even coach Andy Reid.
Perhaps this revelation speaks to a knack Reid absorbed from, say, Rich Little when Reid was a teenager catering for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson? Wherever it comes from, Reid has plenty of such stuff in him but, alas, generally prefers publicly to play it prim and declined to share what Mahomes calls a perfect imitation.
“Maybe it will come out some day at the end of the year,” Reid said, smiling and playfully saying “next question” when asked to share.
Still, he blurted this out: Adding that Mahomes had a “unique voice,” Reid offered a hint of his stylings when he described Mahomes as sounding … “froggish.”
Surely as in …
“I think everybody kind of does a ‘Kermit the Frog’ voice,” said backup quarterback Chad Henne, who doesn’t do the voice himself but figures “clear your throat or something” might be part of getting it right.
Lest you get the wrong idea, none of this is picking on Mahomes.
Whether or not imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it’s certainly a form of camaraderie and alleviating monotony and stress. That was the context in which Mahomes broached it, after all. And it also reflects a broader culture and spirit that starts with noted players’ coach Reid, who with 187 career wins is 10th in NFL history with only one active coach (Bill Belichick) ahead of him.
Calling Reid an “awesome guy,” Mahomes on Wednesday added, “He has that authoritative figure but at the same time can relate to everybody. He has the good impression of my voice, so it’s pretty cool. … He throws it in there every once in a while.”
Beyond that and speaking more to the chemistry, Mahomes says the likes of Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill give him guff, too — though adding, “But don’t worry, I throw shots back.”
For his part, Hill denied imitating Mahomes even as he said “everybody knows Pat’s got an odd voice.” Then again, Hill added, “I’m trying to get more targets — I’m not going to mess that up for me.”
His preferred razzing of Mahomes is about athleticism, or lack thereof, so much so that he disputes the recent circulation of a high school video of Mahomes dunking.
“Tyreek thinks I’m slow and can’t jump and all this stuff,” said Mahomes, adding that when the video surfaced he tagged Hill in a Tweet of it. “He always says, ‘Thank you’ (in Tweets), so I said thank you and threw up (Hill’s trademark) peace sign to him.”
All for naught.
“That is clearly not Pat,” Hill said.
What is indisputably Pat is the voice that only adds to the charm of all this.
When you were a kid, and, heck, even into adulthood, you might remember either intentionally or inadvertently imitating traits of those you admire. A little bit like Springsteen puts it in Backstreets: “Remember all the movies, Terry, we’d go see, trying to learn to walk like the heroes we thought we had to be.”
Now they’re going to be trying to throw like Mahomes and walk like Mahomes; they’re already getting haircuts like Mahomes. And you just know a burst of names in his honor will soon be at hand, as nicely foreshadowed by Star colleague Aaron Randle (@aaronronel) on Twitter the other night: “One day with angry, tearful eyes, Patrick Mahomes Randle, my daughter, will ask me why I named her so and she’s just going to have to understand that 2018 was a wild year and the chips fell how they fell.”
But here’s betting the talk of the town will soon start sounding like a raspy drawl, the voice of a new generation in Chiefs football that many will be echoing one way or another.
“Everybody,” Chiefs linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon said, smiling, “might want that Kermit voice soon.”