SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The 23-year-old wearing a sweatshirt and funky jogger pants could almost be mistaken for any other young man engaging in lighthearted banter while playing video games on a Tuesday morning. But after an MVP award in his second NFL season, Patrick Mahomes II tends to stick out, even when engaging in everyday activities like gaming.
Though so much has changed in Mahomes’s life after he laid waste to NFL secondaries with more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, he still reverts to a ritual that dates back to his middle school days: hours-long offseason video gaming sessions.
“It’s been something that I’ve taken with me all the way since I was that young,” Mahomes said during a promotional event for new in-game content for “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” at Treyarch’s offices.
Video games, especially shooters like Call of Duty, have served as a way for Mahomes to escape the pressures of his life on the field while still flexing his competitive muscles. The practice has endured from his time as a multisport high school star in Texas, then to Texas Tech and now as one of the NFL’s youngest MVPs. Gaming has aided him in even more ways than stress relief at the pro level, helping him build chemistry and cohesion with his teammates on the Chiefs.
“I have a great group of guys on my team who are also young, and so we all get on, we play and kinda get lost in it for a while,” Mahomes said of his teammates, who make up one of the youngest rosters in the league. Gaming online has also helped him keep in touch with his friends from high school, he said, which helps keeps him grounded as his star continues to rise.
Despite his profession, his habit does not extend to Madden NFL, a game he finds too close to his real world. Instead, Mahomes prefers shooter games, like Call of Duty and “Fortnite” even if the latter title presented him with an odd moment when his character was killed by a player wearing Mahomes’s own jersey in the game.
While he will bring his PlayStation with him on the road, he’ll play only for an hour or two on Mondays and Fridays during the season, when the Chiefs aren’t playing or practicing. In the offseason, his sessions will stretch closer to three or four hours.
While the Chiefs have no problem with his gaming, and certainly prefer it to him playing basketball, not all parties in Mahomes’s circle are as thrilled.
“My girlfriend gets a little mad at me sometimes because I’m in the game room playing for three or four hours,” he said.
Playing with several journalists at the Treyarch studios, Mahomes demonstrated how his gaming experience can manifest on the field. During matches played with some men more than twice his age, he emerged as the clear leader of the group, barking out commands to his teammates while making split-second decisions. He adapted his strategies based on the game’s maps, called out the locations of opposing players and, just as he did this past fall, displayed a bias for aggressiveness.
When the game concluded, he had earned player of the game honors. His secret?
“I was getting a lot of kills and not dying a lot,” Mahomes said.
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