MVP Mahomes had to convince high-school coaches he was their best QB
Patrick Mahomes may have just been named the NFL's MVP, but seven years ago coaches were unsure if he was even the best quarterback on his high-school team.
The signal caller's remarkable first season as the Kansas City Chiefs' starter was recognised on Saturday when it was confirmed Mahomes had pipped Drew Brees to the MVP award.
Few could argue that Mahomes deserved such an honour having thrown for over 5,000 yards and tossed 50 touchdowns for a 12-4 Chiefs team that lost the AFC Championship Game to the New England Patriots.
Those numbers justified the Chiefs' decision to trade their previous starting quarterback in the offseason, with Kansas City having determined that the electrifying Mahomes could take them further than the steady and reliable Alex Smith.
A similar judgement was made by then-offensive coordinator Adam Cook and the other coaches at Whitehouse High School in 2012 when Mahomes won a quarterback battle against his best friend, Ryan Cheatham.
"Everyone wants to compare Patrick to other quarterbacks but everybody's struggling because he's so different, on a totally different level - even in high school he was like that," Cook told Omnisport.
"It was a legitimate battle. Cheatham was a very good quarterback. We had two quarterbacks before those two that went to college on football scholarships. Ryan was a lot more like those two in the way that he played.
"Even in the coaches' office there were some that kind of leaned a bit towards Cheatham at that time. They were back and forth. It seemed like when Cheatham got in there was a bad snap over his head and he was just snakebit."
The sceptics were won over in Mahomes' second start when he produced the type of magic that the world would later become accustomed to.
On a rainy night against Sulphur Springs, Mahomes led the Wildcats to a 38-33 success and amassed over 500 yards of offense.
"Ryan Cheatham would have come into the game had it not been raining," Cook admitted.
"That's when Patrick won the spot. Afterwards, Ryan knew."
Mahomes, the son of a former MLB pitcher, excelled beyond the gridiron as a teenager too.
"Patrick was good at anything he did," revealed Cook, who would later be Whitehouse's head coach before becoming the school's athletic director.
"We talked about that a lot as coaches - this kid was special, what is it that he's going to do?
"When he first got to high school, basketball was the thing he loved the most. He wanted to go and play for Duke.
"There was always that thought that he could go and play baseball. It was something I thought about but you can't live in fear. He and I never talked about that.
"At that time the majority of people probably thought it was baseball [that he would follow]. Patrick's grandmother on his daddy's side, she would tell me all the time, 'My baby's a football player'."
It was football, rather than baseball, that would be Mahomes' calling, though the influence of the sport he did not follow is still very evident today.
Mahomes' arm strength means he has a unique ability to hurl passes from various release points, while his 2018 highlight reel has included deep bombs, left-handed passes and no-look throws.
"Once the receivers play with him a little, they'll know they better be ready for the ball at any time," Cook said of Mahomes' future.
"You never know when you're gonna get it because the play's never dead. Those things he'll continue to do. We'll still be mesmerised by it. I think we'll be a little more numb to it.
"People call me and say, 'Hey, what's the biggest pass he made? What do you remember?' It's hard to just pin down one."
In fact, it is plays Mahomes makes today that most remind Cook of his time at Whitehouse, and his friendship with one-time rival Cheatham.
"The senior season Ryan moved to slot receiver," he explained.
"Sometimes I watch [Mahomes] throw it to Travis Kelce and I think, 'It's just like watching him throw it to Ryan Cheatham'."