Three Chiefs learned locker room lessons from pro sport dads

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some of Patrick Mahomes' earliest memories are from baseball clubhouses, where he accompanied his father, Pat, a pitcher for six major league teams. Mahomes, then 5, recalls seeing his father's Texas Rangers teammate Alex Rodriguez trying to perfect his swing by hitting off a tee before games in 2001.

The frequent sight made an impression on Mahomes that he carries with him now that he's the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. The lesson: Athletic ability alone is not enough to carry a player to greatness.

"My favorite player growing up was Alex Rodriguez," Mahomes said. "I remember ... how hard Alex worked. That really stuck with me. You see him hitting off the tee for hours, and you're like, 'Man, you're hitting home runs every single game. Why are you hitting on the tee for two or three hours?' That's just stuff you see and you remember as a kid, and it sticks with you."

Mahomes is one of three Chiefs with fathers who once played major league sports, with veteran punter Dustin Colquitt and rookie offensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie being the others. Colquitt's father, Craig, punted for two Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh Steelers teams in the late 1970s. MacKenzie's dad, Reggie, was a linebacker for two NFL teams more than 20 years ago and is now the general manager of the Oakland Raiders.

Both agreed with Mahomes that when it comes to preparing to play in the NFL, having a dad with a pro sports background has its benefits.

"I don't know that I ever would have tried football if it wasn't for his influence," Colquitt said.

In Colquitt's case, it's easy to conclude that he wouldn't have played in the NFL or been one of its best punters for 13 seasons without his father's help. Colquitt wore his dad's black No. 5 Steelers jersey for Halloween as a kid in Knoxville, Tennessee, but he didn't play football until his senior year of high school.

The team's kicker broke an ankle shortly before the start of the season. With no other reasonable alternative, the coach put in a call to Colquitt, a soccer player who was planning to play that sport in college.

Despite having a father who had been a professional punter, Colquitt knew nothing about kicking.

"When I first started, I was actually dropping the ball right-handed," the left-footed Colquitt said. "I was literally crossing over to punt. My dad came to practice one day, and he was like, 'Oh my gosh, we have got to straighten this out.' I think it was kind of embarrassing for a punter who had two Super Bowl rings."

A few instructional sessions with his father got Colquitt straightened out. In one of his first games, he hit a 75-yard punt that got the attention of the coaches at the University of Tennessee, where his father kicked in college. They asked Colquitt to walk on, and he did, cancelling his plans to play soccer at Brown.

"It was literally only because of my dad's last name," Colquitt said.

But Colquitt kicked well enough his first season at Tennessee to earn a scholarship. He punted well enough the remainder of his career that the Chiefs drafted him in the third round in 2005.

Mahomes and McKenzie might not owe as direct a debt to their fathers, but both players talked about walking into the Chiefs' locker room for the first time, Mahomes last year and McKenzie this year, ahead of the game -- not just because of what they learned from their dads but also because of what they saw.

McKenzie said when he was young, he would head after school to the office of his father, at the time a scout for the Green Bay Packers. He would inevitably wind up hanging out with wide receiver Donald Driver and cornerback Al Harris, now an assistant coach with the Chiefs.

"They'd sit there and talk to me about whatever I had to say at that young age," said McKenzie, who was drafted by the Chiefs in the sixth round this year. "You just see how they carried themselves, just the way they came in and approached the game every day and made guys around them better.

"You just kind of know what goes on in this business. You know what to expect going in, what guys expect out of you. You know what drives decisions that are kind of made behind the scenes. You really know what really matters and [what's] kind of the fluff. I know what I need to be able to do and what I need to kind of ignore. I know I don't need to worry about this or worry about that. I just need to come in and work hard, keep my head down, do what the coaches ask me and go out there and help this team win games because at the end of the day, this is what it's all about."

Being the son of a pro athlete can have its disadvantages. Colquitt, whose brother Britton punts for the Cleveland Browns, initially didn't want to go into what was becoming the family business. That's one reason he resisted football as long as he did.

Mahomes in high school was told that he would never be as good as his father. But by then, he had learned to tune out that type of noise.

"As soon as he could walk, pretty much, I started taking him to the ballpark," Mahomes' father said. "He got to be a part of it. He got to dress in a uniform, go out on the field before the game. He was probably 5 years old and caught his first ball in batting practice off a big-league bat.

"He's always been a student of whatever game he was playing. He always wanted to learn. For him to get to be around me and around my teammates and see what we went through every day, that had a big influence on him. He learned how to act like a professional athlete, and he takes that with him now every day."

Mahomes remains close with some of his dad's former teammates. Long-time major league pitcher LaTroy Hawkins is his godfather. Rodriguez had the biggest impact on Mahomes.

"He wanted to be a shortstop," Mahomes Sr. said. "He studied every move that Alex made. Alex would take him down underneath the stadium to the batting cages, and he'd let Patrick hit off the tee and show him different drills. He would videotape all of that and show him what he was doing wrong.

"I pretty much knew he was going to be a professional athlete from the time he was about 6 years old. I thought he would be a baseball player. I actually remember betting some of my teammates that he was going to be drafted by a baseball team when he was old enough. I tried to get him to quit football when he was a junior in high school. I thought that was the last sport he would go pro in. The quarterback thing came late, but once he got into it, he was all into it."

Much has been made about Mahomes' physical football skills. He can make some difficult throws that many other quarterbacks can't, and without that ability, the Chiefs wouldn't have drafted him in the first round last year.

But the Chiefs have been as impressed with how Mahomes has handled himself and his work habits. He's beyond the typical 22-year-old in those areas. He by all accounts deftly assumed command in the locker room this offseason, which is no small feat on a team that features veterans such as tight end Travis Kelce and safety Eric Berry.

"You can't overestimate the effect that growing up in that environment had on him," said Mahomes' agent, Leigh Steinberg. "From the day he was born, he's been around professional athletes. You can't overemphasize what sitting around with Alex Rodriguez or standing around him in batting practice and being around ballplayers does for someone. You can say he's been groomed for leadership."

Running back Kareem Hunt recently said that Mahomes is the most competitive person he has ever met, with that competitiveness extending everywhere from video games to the football field. Asked where that love of competition comes from, Mahomes said, "Definitely growing up in a locker room. If you watch those guys, they compete at everything. My dad is the same exact way. He still competes with me to this day. He thinks he can beat me in a foot race."