KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The quarterback went down, and the tongue-in-cheek message went up.
Days after Patrick Mahomes suffered a dislocated kneecap in an Oct. 17 game, a church just across the Kansas state line referenced the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback on its street-facing marquee:
Suddenly, the tote board was a prime selfie spot for red-clad Chiefs fans. Some people stopped in to make a donation. TV news crews showed up.
What started as an irreverent quip — not the first sports-themed message the church had posted — came to reflect the passion that so many have for Mahomes, whose astounding playmaking ability has captivated a fan base and the rest of the league.
“Patrick Mahomes just has a presence about him that attracts confidence,” said Lee Johnson, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, Kan. “He’s just a unique individual.”
In many ways, Mahomes stands alone. Since taking over as Kansas City’s starter at the beginning of last season, he leads the NFL in passing yards (7,723) and touchdowns (68), pass plays of at least 25 yards (78), and passer rating (113.9). He was named the league’s Most Valuable Player last season, and Monday night will face the Chargers in Mexico City.
Mahomes returned to action last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, throwing for 446 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-32 loss. He said this week he suffered no ill effects from that game, and in fact feels better than he has all season. Nor was he apprehensive in his return.
“I felt really good, honestly,” he said. “Just going out there and being able to play the game, doing the things that I’ve kind of grown accustomed to doing, scrambling and doing all that different type of stuff, and coming out healthy was definitely a positive sign. I’m glad that I can keep moving forward with that.”
Through the first 25 games, he’s atop virtually every passing category when compared to the legends of the position over the same span — Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Joe Namath, Jim Kelly, Tom Brady, Johnny Unitas and the like.
What’s more, Mahomes has transfixed Chiefs fans like no other. Whereas he’s the master of the no-look pass, nobody here takes their eyes off him.
Hy-Vee markets stock the shelves with his breakfast cereal, Mahomes Magic Crunch, and routinely sell out of Mahomes wigs, which feature a Chiefs headband topped with his distinctive curly Mohawk. That look — shaved on the sides with no sideburns — is a popular request at barber shops all over town.
There are dozens of murals and billboards featuring the smiling star, elaborate Halloween costumes, and No. 15 jerseys on newborns who are “going Mahomes” for the first time. Kansas City, Mo.-based Helzberg Diamonds has an exclusive collection of pendant necklaces featuring his PMII logo, ranging in price from $300-$4,999.
Jeremy Taylor has some serious skin in the Mahomes game. He owns Limitless Tattoo Company in Kansas City, Mo., and is an acclaimed tattoo artist whose wall is covered with awards, some of them for his uncanny renditions of the Chiefs star.
“In terms of his popularity, it’s Mahomes and there’s everybody else,” he said. “People are fascinated.”
Taylor charges $120 per hour, and Mahomes tattoos typically require between 4-8 hours to complete. He’s inked them on arms, legs, chests, and backs.
“It’s not just the portraits,” he said. “Just in general, since he’s been drafted, the amount of people getting all types of Chiefs tattoos has gone 30, 40% higher than it ever was. They get the arrowhead, the logo, a thousand different options you can choose from, but they’re getting them.”
Armando Mesa has a special appreciation for Mahomes mania. He’s part of a team of Chiefs flag runners who lead the team out of the tunnel for home games at Arrowhead Stadium, and sprint down the field during touchdown celebrations.
“I remember watching that game when he got hurt,” Mesa said. “We played great that game, and I couldn’t even enjoy it. I was just sitting there so sad. Before he stepped in as our quarterback, we hadn’t really had since Len Dawson an elite quarterback. Nobody is like Pat Mahomes, anywere. He’s like a generational talent. He does things — the no-look pass, never seen that before.”
So when Mahomes recovered so quickly?
“No surprise,” Mesa said. “He’s just built different. Anybody else would have just blown out their knee on that play. But, nah, his knee’s built to take that. He’s half-man, half-amazing.”
Pastor Johnson points to a higher authority. As soon as Mahomes returned to play, that Kansas church posted a new message on its marquee:
“Hey, it worked. We’re just saying …”