Patrick Mahomes ushered in a new era for the NFL on Sunday after producing a stunning late rally to inspire the Kansas City Chiefs to Super Bowl glory.
The 24-year-old quarterback crowned his emergence as the league’s brightest young star as the Chiefs fought back from a 20-10 fourth quarter deficit to beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20.
It was the sort of performance that will have delighted the watching NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who in the next few years can expect to see star names like Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers either enter or edge closer to retirement.
In Mahomes, the NFL has a ready-made and prodigiously gifted standard-bearer for the next generation.
But while Mahomes is happy to carry the Chiefs on his back when circumstances require, he is less comfortable being portrayed as the new face of the NFL.
“There are several guys that could be the face of the NFL,” Mahomes said after his dazzling display on Sunday, citing the example of Baltimore’s newly minted season MVP Lamar Jackson.
“Lamar was the unanimous MVP last night,” Mahomes said. “And he had one of the best seasons of all-time at the quarterback position.
“There are guys like that it seems every single year, a lot of young quarterbacks and still a lot of veteran guys that are playing at a very high level.
“So I just try to be the best Patrick Mahomes I can be and try to win football games with the guys that I have around me.”
Mahomes may prove to be in a minority of one when it comes to dampening down the hype.
He had already signalled his precocity in 2018 with a jaw-dropping first full season in the NFL, becoming only the second quarterback in history — after Peyton Manning — to throw for 50 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards in a single season.
En route to Sunday’s Super Bowl win, Mahomes came back from a dislocated kneecap earlier this season to lead his team to the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Along the way he had perfected the art of the comeback, overturning 24-0 and 17-7 deficits in the playoff rounds, before helping the Chiefs pull off their Houdini act in Sunday’s showstopping season finale.
As the gold and red confetti began to be swept away from the Hard Rock Stadium playing surface on Sunday, Mahomes’ colleagues in the Chiefs locker room lined up to eulogise their young quarterback.
“You don’t know what you’re going to get out of Pat man,” said Chiefs linebacker Damien Wilson. “He’s greatness in a bottle.”
Fullback Anthony Sherman said he had never doubted Mahomes even after he threw two uncharacteristically sloppy interceptions in a shaky start to the Super Bowl.
“That’s who he is,” Sherman said. “He might throw a pick here or there and it goes down. But we know, if we get the ball back, he’ll make up for it. He’s going to find a way.
“He is so unbelievably calm, collected, and his confidence in himself and the team is — I can’t even describe it. He’s the best quarterback in the NFL, and I’ll go to battle with him any day of the week.”
Tight end Travis Kelce said Mahomes’ sheer force of will had yanked the Chiefs back from the brink of defeat.
“It’s magic Mahomes, it’s Showtime Mahomes. And you know what? I love him. He willed this team back into the game,” Kelce said. Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins meanwhile referred to Mahomes simply as “the golden child.”
As he prepared to leave Miami on Sunday for the Super Bowl MVP’s now traditional trip to Disney World, Mahomes was taking the avalanche of praise in his stride.
“I take it one day at a time and go out there and try to be the best person and best athlete, and the best player I can be,” he said.
“Obviously I’ve had a good start to my career. I’ve been blessed to be in a great organisation with a lot of great players around me that make my job a lot easier.
“But I know it’s going to take a long time of consistency if I want to be where I want to be at the end.”