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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — During one training camp practice this year, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes stepped to the line of scrimmage, surveyed the defense and began his cadence with a hard count in an attempt to draw the defense offsides.
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who was standing behind Mahomes and the offense, couldn’t help but chuckle at the way his quarterback’s voice — which had long been a point of good-natured ribbing since Mahomes arrived in Kansas City in May 2017 — sounded in that moment, like he was barking.
So Kelce, a good-natured Pro Bowler who loves to make jokes and keep people loose as much as anyone, couldn’t help himself. He started barking like a dog.
“And everybody just died laughing,” Kelce told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday, a wide grin spread across his face.
Following a string of interviews Mahomes conducted after his star turn on “Monday Night Football” — a game in which he guided the undefeated Chiefs from a 10-point deficit to a 27-23 nationally televised road win over the archrival Denver Broncos — the rest of the country is now catching on to what the Chiefs already knew: that their young quarterback, the budding superstar who is just about everyone’s quarter-season MVP, has a voice every bit as unique as his talent.
“It’s like he’s off ‘The Muppets,’ man, stuck between like, the Cookie Monster and Kermit the Frog, man,” Kelce said with a delighted cackle. “It’s a mix of the two.”
— Yahoo Sports NFL (@YahooSportsNFL) October 3, 2018
“It’s muddled — like he’s gargling his throat,” safety Eric Murray added.
In the aftermath of the game, posts popped up about his voice on Twitter and other web sites, along with memes of Kermit the Frog drinking tea — all while wearing a hairstyle similar to the 23-year-old’s mohawk.
During a news conference Wednesday, Mahomes admitted the national response to his voice has taken him by surprise.
“I mean, yeah, because I’ve done a lot of these,” Mahomes said, referring to news conferences. “[But] I know there’s a lot of people who tuned into that game, and I’m glad we got the win.”
The fact Mahomes has done a ton of interviews — he has spent entire days on Radio Row before the past two Super Bowls — hasn’t kept people from appreciating his notable trait, and that includes members of the Chiefs. Head coach Andy Reid, who Mahomes says does the best impression of his voice, essentially co-signed on the Kermit line of thought by noting Wednesday that Mahomes sounds particularly “froggish,” though others are quick to add that it also has a certain Texas twang that cannot be overlooked.
“When we first started chilling and hanging out and stuff, I was like, ‘He’s got something stuck in his throat or something — raspy with mucus or something,’ ” running back Kareem Hunt said with a hearty laugh. “But that’s how they talk where he’s from. You can definitely tell he’s from Texas.”
Getting used to Mahomes in the huddle has taken some time, however, especially with him replacing Alex Smith, who knew the offense backward and forward and spit plays out effortlessly.
“Alex would be able to break the whole play down, really smooth,” Hunt said. “Sometimes the play clock chews down and [Patrick] is trying to spit out all the words at one time and he’ll mix them all together and make one word.”
Hunt quickly added, however, that Mahomes has been diligent about saying his words clearly so his teammates can understand. The twang still slips through in the heat of battle every now and then.
“Say, for instance, he’ll be in the huddle, calling the play … we’ll all just start laughing, like, for no reason,” Tyreek Hill told Yahoo Sports in front of his locker Wednesday.
“It could be like, third-and-5 coming into the huddle, and he’ll be like … ‘Red right awjsudspsdddawqeweesjddddd!’ and we’ll just bust out laughing like, what did he just say? We’re looking at each other like, ‘What’s going on?’ ”
Don’t worry about any of this getting to Mahomes. While some teammates poke fun a little more than others, it’s actually Reid who does it the most, as Mahomes pointed out during Monday’s broadcast.
“There’s not many guys in the locker room that make fun of his voice,” backup quarterback Chad Henne said. “It’s just sparingly, Coach Reid will bring it up in a meeting or something [when he’s teaching us a play].
“Like, he’ll say: ‘Let’s hear this cadence — it’s gonna sound like this: 54 is the Mike!’ And then it will be done. But it’s more coming from Coach Reid.”
Henne says Mahomes always laughs it off, too, which comes easy. As the son of a longtime professional baseball player (Pat Mahomes Sr.) and the godson of another (LaTroy Hawkins), Mahomes spent his childhood in baseball clubhouses, so teammates say he’s familiar with locker room banter and is well-equipped to handle it.
“Yeah, he’s cool with it,” Murray said. “We’re not the first ones to tell him that he sounds funny.”
“He knows how the guys get on each other and have fun with it,” Kelce added, “so he was cool about it. And trust me, nobody can make fun of his voice better than him.”
Mahomes acknowledged Wednesday he has learned through experience that’s the best way to handle it. “I’ve heard it since I was in like, the seventh grade, but it’s something I’ve embraced,” Mahomes said. “The guys — Kelce, Tyreek and those guys — throw some shots at me, but don’t worry, I throw shots back.”
Especially when it’s time to get serious, teammates say — and when he does, it leaves an impression.
“I mean, he already knows we’re playing and just trolling him,” Hill said. “But at the same time, you can kind of tell that it gets to him in serious moments.”
In a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, Hill remembers Mahomes shutting the huddle up during a crucial point in the game and getting everyone back on track.
“He’ll be like, ‘Come on man, stop playing — let’s go,’ ” Hill said. “It’s leadership.”
Mahomes’ teammates are listening — unique voice and all. It’s easy to, considering he has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,200 yards, 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Best of all, Mahomes knows the NFL is a performance league. As long as he’s getting the job done — and right now, no quarterback in the NFL is doing that as well as Mahomes — his voice will continue to be a beloved trait that separates him from his contemporaries, just as much as his cannon-like arm and Brett Favre-ish creativity do.
“You just need to be comfortable with yourself,” Mahomes said. “It’s me, it’s who I am, so I’m never going to be insecure about it. I’m just going to embrace it and keep going.”
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