Former first-round draft pick Patrick Mahomes will step into the spotlight when he takes snaps as the Kansas City Chiefs’ starting quarterback this fall. But he’s raising some eyebrows with an unusual decision he made to stay out of the limelight last year.
In an interview with ESPN, Mahomes says he turned down local endorsement deals during his rookie year in deference to the team’s then-starting QB Alex Smith. Mahomes was selected as the team’s “quarterback of the future” when the Chiefs traded up to draft him with the 10th overall pick in 2017. Mahomes’ agent says it was part of a plan to slowly integrate the rookie into the Kansas City locker room.
“We intentionally didn’t do endorsements that would run in the Kansas City area even though they were offered,” said agent Leigh Steinberg. “We didn’t want him to be on billboards and everything when he wasn’t even playing.”
Mahomes’ only start came in last season’s finale against the Broncos. He threw for 284 yards and one interception in a Chiefs’ win. Smith played five seasons in Kansas City before he was traded to Washington this past offseason. Smith posted a 50-26 record as the Chiefs’ starter.
The idea of players turning down endorsements for various reasons isn’t completely uncommon. Last year, the agent for Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky said his client also declined promotional opportunities while Chicago sorted out its depth chart. Trubisky was selected eight spots ahead of Mahomes at No. 2 overall in the 2017 draft.
Nonetheless, in a sport where the career lifespan is short and contracts aren’t fully guaranteed, Mahomes’ decision to decline offers because of Smith’s presence as the Chiefs starter is atypical. For example, Michael Vick became the face of Nike Football shortly after he signed with the company as a rookie in 2001. He started just two games for the Falcons in his first season.
Despite last year’s move to take a backseat, the lifestyle of a professional athlete isn’t totally unfamiliar to the 22-year-old Mahomes. His father, Pat, was a major league pitcher for 11 seasons, playing with the Twins, Red Sox and Mets, among other teams.
Mahomes comes into training camp as the No.1 quarterback on the Kansas City depth chart. The Chiefs face the Chargers in Los Angeles for Week 1.