Patrick Mahomes became a household name this year for the Kansas City Chiefs with one highlight-reel throw after another, but for those who have known him since he was a three-sport standout at Whitehouse High School, this was nothing surprising. This was just Patrick being Patrick.
Mahomes grew up in Whitehouse, Texas, a town of 7,660 people about 100 miles east of Dallas, playing football, baseball and basketball. His coaches, friends and teammates all envisioned greatness for Mahomes. He just wanted to compete, win a lot of ball games and make his teammates around him better.
To fully understand who Mahomes is today, you have to learn who Mahomes was back as a high school student-athlete.
“He’s just a guy that you like and you want to root for.”
After calling plays and developing a father-son relationship with him earlier in his high school career, Adam Cook became Mahomes’ football coach as a senior. Cook knew right away there was something special about Mahomes.
“It was a blessing [coaching Patrick],” Cook said. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Speaking on behalf of all of us that coached him here at the high school, we knew then that we had something pretty special and not something that everybody gets an opportunity to do, to coach a kid like that.
“At some point, he’s going to be standing on a stage somewhere where other people aren’t going. We recognized that and felt a sense of responsibility to make sure that we did our part, however little or big, or whatever it was to help influence him.”
Mahomes went 22-3 at Whitehouse and was honored as the Texas Associated Press Sports Editors football player of the year after throwing for 3,587 yards and 41 touchdowns to only four interceptions during the regular season. The side-arm throws and improvisational skills he displayed for the Chiefs this season were the same type of “wow” plays he made as a high schooler.
“We go back now and watch those plays and it’s the exact same thing we’re seeing that he did when he was in high school, scrambling around, throwing across his body, different things like that,” Cook said. “In my family, it’s fun to just watch that and just say ‘hey man, remember when we saw this?’”
Mahomes helped lead his team to the third round of the playoffs, where he showed off his strong arm, improvisational skills to keep plays alive, the intensity to compete and the relentless drive to make his teammates better.
“He was a great leader and he made everybody play around him better, he made his teammates believe in themselves and I can’t say enough about his leadership skills,” Cook said. “He’s just a guy that you like and you want to root for.”
Mahomes made it easy to see his greatness and special traits on the football field, basketball court or baseball diamond, but as Cook says, what really makes him special is what he did off the field to make guys follow his lead and rally behind him.
“He did a great job of building up everybody on the team,” Cook said. “As a high school kid, he reached out to the kids that were the managers on the team. Patrick lifted those guys up. … Patrick has done an excellent, excellent job of being able to praise, lift up all those other guys, understand the importance of all of the team members that are there, playing with him.”
Fame, success at the highest level and an NFL salary can change a person, but Cook still sees the same small-town kid who shied away from the attention as he did when he coached him.
“When you see him deflecting all the praise on all those other guys, that’s what he’s done his whole entire career,” Cook said. “And none of that’s changed. And we’re just as proud of him as we can be. He’s just a great guy. He represents East Texas really well.”
This kid is gonna be unbelievable
Derrick Jenkins arrived at Whitehouse at the same time as Mahomes. Jenkins was his high school baseball coach and knew from the first moment he stepped on the practice field that he had something special.
“He was just unbelievable,” Jenkins said. “I tell people, he’s probably the smartest baseball kid I’ve had. He just knew what was going on so fast that it was just kind of unbelievable. Then you started watching him play football, and you started watching him play basketball, and you’re like, ‘This kid is gonna be unbelievable.’
“He did things you didn’t have to teach. He was able to coach on the field. You watch him on the football field, he does it also. He made everybody else around him better by just how he played.”
“He’s just Patrick. This is what he does.”
Mahomes split time on the mound as a pitcher and played all over the diamond as a super-utility player of sorts. On the mound, he went after batters with an unflinching belief that he was going to strike them out. He threw hard, albeit a little wild at times, but he came after hitters and challenged them.
“He wasn’t scared of anybody,” Jenkins said. “That’s probably the thing you think about him the most. He didn’t care if he walked a guy, ’cause he’s planning to strike the next guy out. So he was just a guy that just threw hard and went 110 percent the whole time he was on the mound. When I think of him, that’s who I just think of on the mound, is just a competitor that just went at people every single day. He didn’t believe anybody was better than he was.”
And the highlight-reel throws he made on the gridiron followed him on the diamond. Mahomes has been doing these things from day one. He could make wild throws across the diamond, throw out a runner at first from the outfield and leave spectators with their jaws agape as they watched his latest improbable feat.
“He did it all the time,” Jenkins said. “He just did so many things. His arm was so strong. He just threw the ball across the diamond. He said he’d been doing those things from day one. My son is 13, and of course got to be around him. He laughs, he goes, ‘He’s just Patrick. This is what he does.’”
Mahomes could have followed in the footsteps of his father, Patrick Mahomes, Sr., who played more than a decade in the major leagues as a pitcher. Jenkins believes if Patrick pursued baseball instead of football, he would have been a success and followed his dad to the big leagues. “I think he could’ve been a pro baseball player,” Jenkins said. “He just understands what he needs to do every day, so there’s no doubt in my mind. Whatever he would’ve picked, he would’ve been very, very successful at.”
“What we see is, he made every kid that he was around better, every single day. So the impact he’s gonna make at our high school for hopefully now until forever is that.”
The decision to give up baseball and pursue football at Texas Tech had to be a difficult one, but Jenkins points to Mahomes’ maturity as something that resonates with him in the years since he’s coached him.
“You look at maturity, you see that probably more than anything,” Jenkins said. “He paved his own way, after knowing what his dad has done, and could’ve done that also, so that’s a pretty amazing thing to watch also.”
“He’s a true role model,” Jenkins said. “He didn’t get in trouble. He didn’t go do things he wasn’t supposed to do. He had a plan, and he made everybody else around him better. … When you look at Patrick Mahomes, everybody sees all the throws. They see all those things. But what we see is, he made every kid that he was around better, every single day. So the impact he’s gonna make at our high school for hopefully now until forever is that.”
Being a three-sport star, big man on campus and the son of a professional baseball player could have resulted in a big ego, but that wasn’t remotely the case. “This is a kid that never really wants the spotlight,” Jenkins said. “He just wants to be Patrick. He wants to play. He truly … what you see, loving the game, is what you saw forever. He just wanted to play every day, and win a lot of games, and be really good at what he did.”
“He was a dream to coach. There’s no doubt. Couldn’t pick a better guy for my kids to get to be raised around.”
The joy continues for Jenkins now as he gets to watch his former star player excel with the Chiefs. Whitehouse might be a Cowboys town, but there are a lot of Mahomes jerseys around now, as they rally around their hometown hero.
“It’s been awesome,” Jenkins said. “All the local channels have put him on now. Just for us to get to watch him, we get to see him every day after you watched him grow up, it’s unbelievable. It’s pretty exciting. The world gets to see what we got to see for a long time.”
He made everybody else around him better
Brent Kelley coached Mahomes in basketball for his senior year, after having coaching against him the three years prior. His unique perspective allowed him to see what made Mahomes so dangerous as an opponent and why it was such a privilege to coach him.
“When I coached against him, I saw what kind of player he was, but when I coached him that one year, his senior year, that’s when you really saw what he was about and how he affected other people and made everybody else around him better,” Kelley said.
“The first game I actually coached him in, they had just got beat out of the football playoffs from Friday and this was the next Tuesday, so literally, we were in practice Monday with him. I’ll never forget, I remember texting somebody after the game like, ‘Man, I’m coaching a professional right now.’ I didn’t know what sport at that point, but you could just tell he had what it takes, and it was evident from the very first game I got to coach him.”
As a senior, Mahomes won the district MVP after helping lead the team to the third round of the playoffs. It may have been his third best sport, but Kelley believes his skills on the court would have made him a college basketball player and didn’t rule out an NBA career, despite his height, if he chose that path.
“I definitely think he would’ve been a college basketball player,” Kelley said. “As far as the NBA, I’m not sure about that just because of his size. There’s not a lot of 6-foot-3 guards in the NBA, but I mean, I wouldn’t count him out just ’cause he would’ve worked his butt off to get there.
“He can walk into a locker room, into a gym, and the whole atmosphere changes; and that’s what I can imagine he’s done that with the Chiefs too.”
One game that sticks out in Kelley’s mind is a second-round playoff game in which Mahomes scored 37 of his team’s 56 points in a nine-point victory.
“He could do a lot,” Kelley said. “He could play any position. We would post him up a lot ’cause he was so good at controlling his body. If he caught the ball in the post, he was gonna score or he was gonna go to the free throw line ’cause he was so smart. We ran him off some screens. And then late in the games, we would put him at the point guard position just ’cause he was a big kid and was smart and could handle the ball too. He did a little bit of everything.”
Mahomes’ ability to do a little bit of everything has helped shape his legacy after his graduation. Kelley coached Patrick’s younger brother, Jackson, and uses Patrick as an example of how far hard work and dedication can take you in life.
“We talk about how much better he made everybody else around him,” Kelley said. “He can walk into a room and change a room. He can walk into a locker room, into a gym, and the whole atmosphere changes; and that’s what I can imagine he’s done that with the Chiefs too.
“My son, he didn’t see Patrick play in high school ’cause he wasn’t born yet, but he saw him at our playoff game last year ’cause he was there watching his brother. And then you got kids in high school that were in junior high that remember seeing him play. So it’s been good seeing all this, creating some excitement and it gives them something to look up to, look forward to.”
Coleman Patterson, Mahomes’ football and baseball teammate in high school and one of his receivers at Texas Tech, knows the Chiefs star as well as anyone.
“Patrick was a great teammate on and off the field,” Patterson said. “One of my best friends who is and always has been gifted at everything he does. He’s very smart and encouraging, a great leader. Is very good at finding a way to win and dominate and help others become better players and people.”
Being on the receiving end of his throws is a fun job, and Patterson had a front row to some of the impossible throws he’s made with the Chiefs that go viral on Twitter and are featured on SportsCenter.
“He’s always found a way to get it done, I can’t say that he grew up showing these types of attributes off, but I really believe it was only a matter of time before he pulled off the ‘impossible’ plays he does,” Patterson said. “I knew the play was never dead, he always found a way to keep the play alive and win.”
Patterson said he and his friends always knew there were big things in store for Mahomes beyond high school and college, but they rarely talked about it because they were busy living in the moment and enjoying life. And that’s really what Mahomes is all about. There will be many more chapters to the Legend of Patrick Mahomes, but the story begins in Whitehouse.
“He’s a small-town kid that loves to play football and compete,” Patterson said. “Players make plays, and I truly believe he’ll continue to shock the world on and off the field.”
That’s just Patrick.