Patrick Mahomes delivered his MVP speech the way he plays football.
Throughout the week, he jotted down some ideas in the notes app on his phone. He studied them in his downtime, adding and subtracting his thoughts as they evolved.
But when it came time to give the speech Saturday night in Atlanta, Mahomes didn’t bring the phone with him on stage for the televised NFL Honors show. And he didn’t have the speech loaded into the teleprompter.
He just went with his gut.
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“I just wanted to go with something kind of authentic,” he told The Star.
Much like how he plays football, electrifying the crowd with his no-look passes and in-game scramble drills, Mahomes freelanced within the bounds of his notes in front of the NFL’s elite as he accepted the franchise’s first NFL MVP award.
“I’m truly honored to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award,” he began. “When you look at this award, you see the rich history that it has. You see guys like Elway and Favre, Manning and Brady and many more. I’m so humbled to be sharing this prestigious honor with them.”
Mahomes went on to thank God, his family, his girlfriend, his teammates and the Chiefs organization. Then, he paused and addressed a pocket of fans in the audience who were wearing Chiefs red, waving a Chiefs flag.
“Last, I want to thank Chiefs Kingdom,” he said. “Your passion and love is unmatched. You’re here no matter when and where. This is just the beginning and we have a long ways to go.”
The fans cheered when addressed, hooting and hollering for their quarterback, the youngest MVP in the Super Bowl era.
The rest of the world had to wait for Kansas City-born actor — and noted Chiefs fan — Paul Rudd to turn around and reveal a suit jacket bedazzled with Mahomes’ last name and number to officially announce the MVP winner. But the 23-year-old quarterback actually found out that he was going to win after he picked up the league’s AP Offensive Player of the Year award earlier in the night.
“After that one, they let me know I was going to, so I had to get back to my seat,” Mahomes said. “My heart was still pounding when they were announcing it. Until it happens, you just never know.”
But most Chiefs fans and NFL devotees knew for weeks that Mahomes had the MVP award locked up. With 50 regular-season passing touchdowns and more than 5,000 passing yards in his first year as a starter, Mahomes had the stat lines to surpass New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, considered Mahomes’ stiffest competition for the honor.
“This season, almost every single week, even the weeks we didn’t win, (was) unbelievably exciting in large part because of Patrick,” Chiefs CEO and owner Clark Hunt told The Star. “And that’s not only about Patrick as a player and what he did on the field, but it was about watching him emerge as a leader, somebody his teammates looked for. The way he handles fans and the media, how thoughtful he is, how humble he is, how willing to give others the credit.
“To some degree, we knew he had those qualities. To see him exhibit all of that in the pressure-cooker that is an NFL season was really amazing.”
Selected by the Chiefs with the 10th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Mahomes spent his first season with the franchise on the bench, learning from veteran Alex Smith. But once Smith was traded to Washington this time a year ago, Mahomes took over as the Chiefs’ starter.
He entered the season with immense praise from the highest offices in the franchise. General manager Brett Veach called Mahomes “one of the best players I’ve ever seen” — something that at the time sounded far-fetched and hyperbolic given the small sample size of Mahomes’ abilities as a pro before the 2018 season.
And then the preseason began. With a flick of his wrist, Mahomes threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill in Atlanta during the Chiefs’ second preseason game. That was just a glimpse of the physics-defying, jaw-dropping and downright absurd throws he would make over the next five months. He threw his first NFL touchdown pass in the first quarter of the Chiefs’ season opener against the Chargers, as Hill turned a short completion into a 58-yard score.
From there, Mahomes went on to throw another 49 regular-season touchdowns. And he ran for two on top of that.
“I got a really great situation,” Mahomes said. “I got to learn behind a great quarterback in Alex Smith. I got to be on a team with a lot of playmakers that have helped fix up my game and made me look really, really good on a daily basis. And being able to go out there and win football games in front of a passionate fan base is something that you get the luxury of doing.
“So it is an honor. It’s a hard award to win. I hope the next award I get is a Super Bowl.”
The Chiefs finished 13-5 overall, with one win and one loss in the playoffs after a 12-4 regular season.
Though it wasn’t his primary goal this season, this individual honor is something of a salve for the pain that lingers from just barely missing the Super Bowl. The Chiefs lost 37-31 in overtime to the New England Patriots in the Jan. 20 AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium — a game that could’ve sent them, and not the Patriots, to Super Bowl LIII to play the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
Even though he’ll leave with some pretty significant hardware — along with the MVP and offensive player of the year awards, he was named the FedEx Air Player of the Year on Saturday — Mahomes admitted it’s been tough to be around the Super Bowl festivities this week.
“I try to stay busy, but at the same time, I see the stadium and all that stuff, the stuff I dreamed of being at, and so we have to look back at all the positives that we did this year,” he said. “Look at how we’re bringing a lot of people back. We’re going to try to build on that next season.”
Friday afternoon, Olathe North High School graduate Jason Etzen and Chiefs fan shouted to Mahomes from a meet-and-greet line in Atlanta.
“Patrick,” he yelled, “you’re the MVP!”
Mahomes just grinned.
“I’m trying,” he replied. “We’ll see.”
Less than 24 hours later, there was no more trying, waiting, hoping or wishing.
Patrick Mahomes was, and is, the MVP.
Full list of NFL Honors award winners
- AP NFL MVP: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
- AP Coach of the Year: Matt Nagy, Bears
- AP Comeback Player of the Year: Andrew Luck, Colts
- AP Offensive Player of the Year: Mahomes
- AP Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, Rams
- AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Saquon Barkley, Giants
- AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: Darius Leonard, Colts
- AP Assistant Coach of the Year: Vic Fangio
- Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award: Drew Brees, Saints
- Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year: Chris Long, Eagles
- Deacon Jones Award: Aaron Donald, Rams
- FedEx Air Player of the Year: Mahomes
- FedEx Ground Player of the Year: Barkley
- Salute To Service Award: Ben Garland, Falcons
- Play of the Year: Dolphins’ “Miami Miracle”
- Unstoppable Performance: Jared Goff, Rams
- Offensive Line of the Year: Rams
- NFL High School Coach of the Year: Gabe Infante, St. Joseph’s Prep
- Celebration of the Year: Seattle Seahawks “Choreography”
- Moment of the Year: Aaron Rodgers’ return
- Game Changer: Shaquem Griffin, Seahawks