GLENDALE, Ariz. — A replica of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship belt sat inside a black cloth bag draped across the chair in front of Patrick Mahomes’ locker.
What do you get a man who has everything, including, at just 27 years old, two Vince Lombardi Trophies?
Mahomes gleefully unzipped the covering and pulled out the belt, which was emblazoned with two Chiefs logos. He proudly looked it over and then slung it over his shoulder, still with pads on. It was here, amidst the cigar smoke of victory, he proudly posed for pictures before carrying it into the defensive locker room so the guys there could dance and celebrate with it.
“Whew, I need a Coors Light,” he said to no one in particular, even as they were carrying champagne in. He no doubt got his beer. Whatever the champ wanted, the champ was getting.
There were bigger and stronger players in Sunday’s Super Bowl. There were faster and more elusive ones too. None were any tougher than No. 15 though, who saw his ankle get bruised as his legend grew bigger.
“That man,” said Chiefs wide receiver/punt returner Kadarius Toney, “is a warrior.”
The right ankle that had dogged him throughout these playoffs flared up again after a late second-quarter tackle. By halftime, Mahomes was grimacing with each hobbled step and the scoreboard read Philly 24, Chiefs 14. Kansas City had run just 20 plays and were only in this because of a Nick Bolton scoop-and-score.
In the halftime locker room, Mahomes made a point to walk around and let everyone know he was going to be OK, going to be full throttle. “That guy is going to go 100 percent,” Bolton said. “If he can play, let him play. That’s his mindset.”
Mahomes said he didn’t get a shot or take any painkillers. His teammates said he just demanded everyone “bring the energy.” They knew better than to wonder if he would.
By late in the fourth quarter, the game was tied, 35-35. Mahomes had already led three second-half touchdown drives, but the Eagles had proven resilient. Now Mahomes had the ball and Philly had its hearts in its throats. This is the most terrifying scene in the league, Patrick with the ball and a chance to win, someway, somehow.
In this case, he dropped back to his own 47-yard line and then started forward as the rush collapsed around him, sprained ankle be damned. Just like that, the unlikely became unstoppable and he took off.
He crossed the 50 and turned it on.
Mahomes has never been all that fast, but you only have to be faster than the guy chasing you; in this case, Phildelphia defensive linemen Javon Hargrave and Haason Reddick. Past the 45, the 40, the 35, the 30 and then the 20. He finally got knocked down but with 2:45 to play, this had become a game of chess and Kansas City had all the pieces, all the leverage, not to mention the king.
Seven plays later, Harrison Butker drilled the winning field goal.
The heroes were all over the field in red and white — Toney’s 65-yard punt return, the ferocious running of Isiah Pacheco, the play calling of Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy.
But, as always, everything in Kansas City runs through No. 15. Two fourth-quarter touchdowns passes, that 26-yard run, a masterful bit of clock management.
Tom Brady is retired, almost assuredly for good this time. Aaron Rodgers isn’t far behind. The NFL is Mahomes’ league now. He runs this town, as Rihanna put it at halftime. Five years as a starter, five AFC championship games, three Super Bowl appearances and two titles, the only active QB with more than one. Toss in two league MVPs, two Super Bowl MVPs and now a WWE championship belt after arguably the most heavyweight performance of his career.
Mahomes got asked if the Chiefs were a dynasty, and like any good wrestler swatted the assumption away.
“I wouldn’t say dynasty yet,” he smiled. “We aren’t done.”
Salary cap issues had supposedly made the Chiefs vulnerable this season. Tyreek Hill was off in Miami. The running backs were all hurt. The team was painfully young, 10 rookies in the two-deep.
“We had Patrick Mahomes though,” Bieniemy said.
In many ways, that was the story. Mahomes threw for only 182 yards and rushed for only 44, but that didn’t paint the complete picture. He and the offensive line avoided a sack.
“He is a dog,” said Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones, before breaking out a Michael Jordan reference. “Next year, y’all will be like, ‘Is this his flu game?’ Pat is a once-in-a-generation type player.”
As the Chiefs partied in the locker room after the game, Mahomes made multiple rounds to make sure he hugged or acknowledged every last teammate, coach, support staff or family member of team owner Clark Hunt. Offensive line. Defensive backfield. Coaches. Analysts. Whatever.
They responded like it was praise from a big brother. They posed for photos with him, threw him on FaceTime with mom or dad or just videotaped their embrace. They are all equals, a 53-man family, a 53-man championship, but Mahomes is still Mahomes.
“Toughest son of a gun you ever met, man,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said.
The champ of the champs, now with the belt to prove it.