PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – It’s been a bit of a whirlwind offseason for Patrick Mahomes. The star quarterback earned MVP honors in his second year and came an overtime away from playing in his first Super Bowl. Since then, it’s been flights, media appearances, photo shoots, and some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like watching Texas Tech play in the NCAA basketball championship. It’s the storybook ascension for a franchise quarterback, and he’s crossing off milestones at a furious rate.
At EA’s offices on the West Side of Los Angeles, Mahomes marked off another achievement: Madden Cover athlete. After a shoot in early April, it was announced Thursday that Mahomes would be the face of Madden 20, joining recent players like Antonio Brown, Tom Brady, Odell Beckham Jr., Drew Brees and yes, that year Peyton Hillis was on the cover.
What makes this year’s game so fascinating is the addition of the “Face of the Franchise: QB1” mode, which tracks a player’s progress as collegiate QB, through the draft, and working his way through the pros in search of greatness. In many ways, Mahomes’ career thus far is the blueprint for what such a mode should look like: college stardom, first-round pick, learning under a veteran QB his rookie season, unleashed in second year, success and heartbreak, and a challenge to keep pushing.
It’s no surprise that Mahomes had some influence over how the new mode would look, offering up his own experience and expertise to the designers. It’s yet another big moment for Mahomes, who at 23, still seems like even he can’t believe his breakout has all happened so fast. But he’ll be the first to tell you – there’s still work to do.
Uproxx spoke with Mahomes the day of his cover shoot to talk Madden, Texas Tech basketball, his own path to greatness, and more.
Martin Rickman: If you look up after January, with everything you did at Super Bowl through this week, going to a National Championship game for basketball and then into a cover shoot. It’s been kind of a wild couple months for you.
Patrick Mahomes: Yeah, it has been, but it’s been a lot of fun. We’ve enjoyed it. We’ve been able to go out, kind of watch my charity and do a lot of really cool things. And at the same time, got to get home, see the family, work out and do those things. And so we scheduled it well that I’ve gotten to do all these fun cool things, I’m still ready to go for this season and that starts up on Monday.
Watching the development of this game as something that they’re adding in, which is that actual progression in QB1, while you’re right in the middle of it gives you the chance to kind of put some of your DNA on that. You’re going through that right now.
I’m in this face of the franchise mode thing that they have going, where it shows quarterbacks and how they go through their draft process and how they start from even, going back to the college football playoffs, and have these teams at the playoffs ready to play your game. They got colleges, they got Texas Tech on there, so they have a lot of good, good colleges. And then you go to the draft process, you go to the combine, you get to go to the draft meetings, and you ultimately go to the Draft Day and get to walk across the stage and try to change the franchise forever.
It’s stuff that I’ve got to put my input on, and I think people are going to be very excited about it.
When you look at kind of these last two seasons, essentially just putting in all the work and then having that pay off to some extent, but you’re not a complacent dude, so there’s a lot of work that you’re going to put in this summer to get to the next stage for you. What was your takeaway from almost that pseudo redshirt year and then seeing that pay off that next season?
I mean it’s that, you don’t, it isn’t always physical that you have to prepare yourself for the game. There’s a lot of mental stuff, there’s a lot of stuff you have to do, and you have to find a way to get better no matter what role you have on the team or role that you’re having in the organization. And so I found a way to better myself for the team and it paid off the next year and we had a great season.
When you look at what you want to more of, or what you want to work on, what do you see in yourself that’s going to push you to that next tier?
I’m going to keep getting better and better and being able to read coverages, defenses, and protections. I mean, that’s the stuff you have to keep working on, stuff you have to work on your entire career. You want to master that stuff. And that’s what you see those great quarterbacks doing, they master it. And so that’s what I want to keep working on. I mean physically, the physical stuff, you want to get better of course. But I think the mental side of the game is where the game’s won a lot of the time, so I’m excited to keep getting better that way.
One of the things I’ve talked to guys a lot about in the past is that progression of as your star’s rising, kind of taking advantage of that as much as possible. We’ve seen, with Oakley and adidas, and now Madden for you, how do you balance that, but also what’s your takeaway from these experiences? Because everything is learning.
Yeah, exactly. You have align yourself with good people. It’s not about taking every deal, it’s about taking the right ones that match your brand, and that match up with great people. And I feel like we’ve done that, and kind of set ourselves up to where we can do these things, do these photo shoots. At the same time we have football as a first priority and I think that’s something that we maximized in this offseason.
Who do you look to for advice both on the field but also off the field for those types of things?
My godfather for sure, LaTroy Hawkins. I go to him for advice each and every day. I mean, he’s someone who did it the right way. Played 20 years in the Major Leagues [baseball]. And so if you do that, you know how to go about your business and handle it the right way.
You had the opportunity to see Texas Tech playing college basketball in the National Championship and obviously not quite coming through, but what was that experience like? Was that something you ever thought would happen?
Yeah, I mean I knew they had a good team, but I mean it’s hard to get there. It’s hard to win those five or six games to get to the National Championship, and they did that. They fought hard. They were 12 seconds away from winning a National Championship. And those guys are guys that worked hard every single day and so I was excited for them and proud of them. Obviously didn’t get what they wanted, but they’ll be back with that culture that they have there.
How hard is that, with how competitive you are, having to sit in the stands and know you don’t have an impact on that game?
I thought it was awesome, though. It was the first time in a long time that I felt like I was truly a fan. Like I was a fan of that team. I wanted them to win. I was rooting them on just as hard as anyone else there. And it was a special experience I’ll never forget.
What’s your Madden story? What’s your background on the game?
I played it all growing up. I mean, everyone has pretty much. But I played it all growing up. My dad used to crush me when I was a little kid and make me cry. And I got better finally and then now, it’s kind of cool now that I see the game and I can see, man, that’s the stuff that we run. And then I get to see the coverages, and recognize the coverages and stuff like defenses are running, and try to find ways to make it better.
Who was your team growing up when you played?
I played with all the high name guys at first, and then I played as the Cowboys when I was a Cowboys fan growing up. And then I played as the Steelers actually for a little while because I went to straight skill position teams, skill players. Now, I mean, the Chiefs, not only just me being on the game and playing with myself, but we had so many weapons that it’s like a team that it’s awesome to play with.
You know the ratings are always a big deal. Whether it’s basketball, football, video games. But, you have an experience where maybe it wasn’t as high as it should have been. And then you turned into one of the highest risers in Madden history.
Yeah, I mean I was like a 77 when I started off last year. And I didn’t understand it, because I was a 76 as a rookie, and I didn’t play, and I went down and I got the starting spot, but I made a nice rise as the season went on. It’s cool now to be up there kind of high. Because it is something you think about as a kid, you want to be a 99. You want to do all this different stuff, so hopefully one day I can get there.
Do you think Madden helps actual football players?
I think it gives a different perspective to players when they’re playing a different position than they usually are and they get to see the whole game and not just their position and what they do. But I think in the NFL, I mean people have really grown as a culture and as a team about learning the whole game, not just learning their position, so I think it became so cerebral I guess you would say that people are really focusing on every single aspect to make themselves better.
Is there anything that you do mentally to make sure that you stay sharp off the field?
I’ve tinkered with stuff as far as like what you see with people with meditation and with different stuff with different psychology stuff like that, but there’s nothing I do on a consistent basis that mentally that I do is just kind of just keeping it in perspective of what the important things are and what you need to get done during the week to get yourself ready for the game.
Are you a big schedule guy, routine guy?
Yeah, once the season hits, it’s a specific routine that I do every single week, and that I have to do. If I don’t do it, I feel like I’m not ready to go.