“I have to mention,” Clark Hunt said Sunday, “that a few years ago, I think it was around Super Bowl 50, when my mom had seen all 50 of the Super Bowls, she said, ‘You know, Clark, it sure would be nice if we could play in this game once while I’m still able to go.’ ”
It took a few years, but Hunt and his team have delivered on that gentle, motherly “suggestion.” The Chiefs are headed to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years, with a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers set for Feb. 2 in Miami Gardens, Fla. The postgame celebration Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, following the Chiefs’ 35-24 triumph over the Tennessee Titans in the AFC championship game, included Norma Hunt kissing the trophy named for her husband.
“It’s a tremendous day for our family, and I should mention how happy I am for my mother,” Clark Hunt said. “To get a chance to hold and kiss this trophy really means a lot. I think that’s true of our entire family. … [It’s] very, very special for all of us.”
The Chiefs on Sunday night could bask in the glow of their Super Bowl return, half a century in the making, before the work of preparing to face the 49ers would begin. For Hunt, that meant reflecting on the two decisions most responsible for bringing this about: the hiring of Andy Reid as the team’s coach in 2013, and the bold move to trade up and select quarterback Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech with the 10th pick in the 2017 draft.
“The journey is a big part of it,” Hunt said. “We’re going to celebrate tonight, and it’s going to be tremendous. But it wouldn’t be what it is without the hardship, without all the hard work that went into getting us here. Yeah, 50 years is too long. But we’re going to Miami. We’ve got a chance to win another Super Bowl.”
Reid returns to the Super Bowl for the first time in 15 years. His Philadelphia Eagles lost to the New England Patriots in Reid’s previous Super Bowl coaching appearance in the 2004 season, the game in which wide receiver Terrell Owens returned to play for the Eagles seven weeks after suffering a broken bone in his leg and a torn ligament in his ankle. Many regard Reid as the NFL’s best coach without a Super Bowl victory, and now he gets another chance to rectify that.
“Fired up to go to Miami,” Reid said Sunday. “I need to get on a diet so I can fit in my clothes and we can go do our thing.”
Reid has done a masterful job of developing Mahomes as a young quarterback. After sitting on the bench as a backup to Alex Smith as a rookie, Mahomes was the league’s MVP in his second season. Now he’ll start the Super Bowl to cap his third.
“We all believe in him,” Reid said. “That’s a positive. It’s not just me; it’s everybody. We’re lucky to have some guys that build a lot of confidence within you. . . . Pat’s the leader of the team. Everybody knows that, and they all respect him for it. He knows how to handle it. And that’s why we’re here.”
It was a relatively trying season for Mahomes. He played with an ankle injury early. He returned to the lineup after missing only two games because of a dislocated right kneecap. He wasn’t in the league MVP conversation. But he has been at his best in the games that have mattered most. He led the Chiefs back from a 24-0 deficit to beat the Houston Texans in a divisional-round game. Then he threw for three touchdowns and ran for another Sunday against the Titans to erase a 10-0 deficit.
“Playing at Texas Tech, I put up a lot of stats, but we didn’t win a lot of football games,” Mahomes said. “And so I knew going into the NFL, I was going to do whatever it took just to win games. And I think this team, you can see that in every single player on this team. We don’t care if we win, 10-7, or if we win, 35-24. We’re going to go out there and just find a way to win the football game — whatever it takes.”
The Chiefs are in the Super Bowl one season after losing to the Patriots in overtime at home in the AFC championship game.
“In the NFL, you’re going to go through adversity,” Mahomes said. “That’s the biggest thing. Learning that last year — obviously the loss hurt. But then having to watch the Super Bowl and not being in it, it was something that I could barely do. So for me, I knew I wanted to be in this moment, being able to play this game to get to the Super Bowl. But I knew it was a day-by-day process. I think that’s what we preached as a team: We want to be here. We want to be in the Super Bowl. But we have to take advantage of every single day that we get.”
Mahomes was asked Sunday about his postgame conversation with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady following the loss in last season’s AFC title game.
“I think the biggest thing that Tom said to me,” Mahomes said, “was to just stay with the process and keep being who I am. That’s something that’s important [for] a guy that’s had so much success every single year he’s been in the NFL. . . . He goes out there every single day, and he treats it like it’s the most important day. So that’s something that I’ll try to do for my entire career.”
The Chiefs say they aren’t done.
“So we’ve got that checked off,” Clark Hunt said of fulfilling his mother’s request to get the team back to the Super Bowl. “But at the end of the day, we still have a big goal to accomplish. At the beginning of the season, I talk to the players about our goals during the year. Making the playoffs is goal number one. Bringing [the AFC championship] trophy home to Kansas City is goal number two. We got that one done. But we have a big goal out there, and that’s to bring another Lombardi Trophy back to Kansas City.”