Su­per Bowl run be­gan for Ma­homes at Fort Worth’s APEC

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY DREW DAV­I­SON ddavi­[email protected]­ Drew Dav­i­son: 817-390-7760, @drew­davi­son

Three days af­ter the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots’ Su­per Bowl win last sea­son — which in­cluded a stun­ning over­time de­feat of the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Cham­pi­onship two weeks prior — Patrick Ma­homes, quar­ter­back of the con­fer­ence run­ner-up, got back to work.

By all ac­counts, Ma­homes had logged a sea­son for the ages. An AFC West ti­tle. Best record in the AFC at 12-4. The cap­tain of an of­fense that scored 565 points, more than any other team dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. Home-field ad­van­tage through­out the play­offs. Per­son­ally, he threw for more than 5,000 yards and he scored 50 touch­downs. He earned the league’s MVP Tro­phy.

Still, Ma­homes had a hol­low feel­ing on that early Fe­bru­ary day. Sure, those achieve­ments were real, but so to was the fact that Ma­homes felt that he had the squad to get to the Su­per Bowl, but they weren’t quite able to get there.

So in a Fort Worth gym on the western side of town just out­side the belt­way, Ma­homes and his long­time trainer Bobby Stroupe laid out an off­sea­son train­ing plan solely fo­cused on one thing — reach­ing the Su­per Bowl in 2020. And af­ter the Chiefs’ 35-24 de­feat of the Ten­nessee Ti­tans in this year’s AFC ti­tle game, that’s ex­actly what hap­pened.

Ma­homes and the Chiefs will take on the NFC champs, the San Fran­cisco 49ers, in Su­per Bowl LIV next Sun­day evening in Mi­ami.

“For Patrick, this is spe­cial and it means some­thing,” said Stroupe, who knew Ma­homes Sr., a for­mer pitcher who played for six MLB teams in 11 sea­sons. Stroupe started work­ing with Ma­homes Jr. when he was a fourth­grader in Tyler. They worked to­gether when Ma­homes at­tended high school in Whitehouse, col­lege at Texas Tech, and now with the Chiefs.

“I know what he’s gone through. I know it hasn’t been easy for him,” Stroupe said. “You see from the out­side, the son of a ma­jor-league pitcher who’s been in the locker room ... But it hasn’t been like that.

“He’s worked his butt off. He trains hard to maxso imize the gifts that God’s given him. It means a whole heck­uva lot to me to see some­body reach­ing their dreams. It’s in­cred­i­ble to ex­pe­ri­ence that.”


Stroupe re­mem­bers talk­ing briefly with Ma­homes about the MVP award last off-sea­son. It was a great honor, but it didn’t take him long to move past that.

“That’s great, but im­me­di­ately it was, ‘We shouldn’t have lost in the AFC Cham­pi­onship Game,’” Stroupe re-called Ma­homes say­ing. “Tom [Brady] was gra­cious and told him to stay with it, keep do­ing what he does, but look, Patrick was up­set. He knew they had the team. He knew they had the op­por­tu­nity, and he felt like he didn’t play well enough in the AFC Cham­pi­onship Game.

“He didn’t even want to watch the Su­per Bowl.”

Stroupe said they’re al­ways talk­ing about goals, al­ways com­mu­ni­cat­ing. Head­ing into the 2019 sea­son, the ob­jec­tive was not to outdo the pre­vi­ous sea­son. It wasn’t about stats. It wasn’t about try­ing to throw 6,000 yards or 60 touch­downs. “The com­mu­ni­ca­tion we had was this: I want to win the Su­per Bowl,” he said. “That’s the only goal. That started re­ally three days af­ter the Su­per Bowl last year.”

If you’re an MVP you’re a marked man. Of Ma­homes, Stroupe said the tan­dem knew teams would try and “beat him up.” So last Fe­bru­ary, at Stroupe’s APEC (Ath­lete Per­for­mance En­hance­ment Cen­ter) fa­cil­ity in Fort Worth, they de­signed a plan for Ma­homes to en­ter the 2019 sea­son with a more ro­bust body that could with­stand the weekly pun­ish­ment he ex­pected he would re­ceive.

Mo­bil­ity was also key, and that meant shed­ding a few ex­tra pounds and fo­cus­ing on those bedrock prin­ci­ples — strength, power, speed, stam­ina and en­durance. But Ma­homes also plays in an un­ortho­dox man­ner, so they worked on joint sta­bil­ity and joint mo­bil­ity to with­stand awk­ward falls and spills.

Work­outs ranged from throwing medicine balls from 36 dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions and do­ing squats from nine dif­fer­ent po­si­tions.

“We wanted to make sure he was com­fort­able in un­com­fort­able po­si­tions,” Stroupe said. “Be­cause his play­ing style is un­ortho­dox, our train­ing has to be built in a way that pro­tects his cre­ative free­dom. What I mean by that is we’ve got to do a lot of things where he can pro­duce power in re­ally un­ortho­dox po­si­tions.”

The off-sea­son plan has worked for the most part. Ma­homes man­aged to play through a high an­kle sprain he sus­tained in a Week 1 win over the Jack­sonville Jaguars. And then he only missed only two games when he dis­lo­cated his kneecap dur­ing a Thurs­day night vic­tory over the Den­ver Bron­cos on Oct. 17. “Patrick had two in­juries that could’ve put mul­ti­ple peo­ple out for the sea­son,” Stroupe said. “Not only was he able to play through them, but play at a high enough level to get his team a top seed. Phys­i­cally, he hasn’t looked this good since the first half of Week 1 and train­ing camp.

“We wanted to be more bendy, more flex­i­ble, more mo­bile, so he can have cre­ative free­dom to play the way he wants.”


Ma­homes made the sig­na­ture play of the AFC Cham­pi­onship Game with his legs, not his arm. A 27-yard touch­down run late in the first half against Ti­tans put the Chiefs in the lead for good.

It’s the kind of play they’ll show if his ca­reer arc of the 24-year-old sig­nal caller lands him in Can­ton some 15 or 20 years from now.

On a sec­ond and 10, with 23 sec­onds left in the half, Ma­homes evaded a cou­ple tack­lers in the back­field, crossed the field, sprinted down the side­line and then bul­lied his way into the end zone past mul­ti­ple de­fend­ers. That kind of play might not have been in his reper­toire 12 months ago.

“We weren’t happy with the way he was mov­ing in the play­offs last year from the stand­point of his body weight and his feet,” Stroupe said.

In 2018 sea­son, in­clud­ing the play­offs, Ma­homes rushed for more than 50 yards just once. He had 19 yards on five car­ries in their two play­off games. This sea­son he’s done it four times, twice dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son and in both of the Chiefs’ come-from-be­hind play­off vic­to­ries over the Hous­ton Tex­ans and the Ti­tans.

“If you watch the last four games he’s played, teams have tried to do a lot of dou­ble coverage and we’ve been talk­ing through­out the week about run­ning the ball more and mak­ing them pay,” Stroupe said. “He’s been do­ing it. He’s run the ball more this year than he has in the past for sev­eral rea­sons — he’s still a young man who is de­vel­op­ing ath­let­i­cally.

“He’s a bet­ter ath­lete this year than he was last year. Last year he was a bet­ter ath­lete than the year be­fore,” Stroupe said. “His speed and abil­ity to run the foot­ball and his skill at run­ning the ball and when to run it is bet­ter. You can see that. And it’s a pur­pose­ful thing. We worked to make it to where he can han­dle those types of du­ties. He’s done it, and he’s done it re­ally well.”


Like most foot­ball fans, Stroupe is ex­cited with this year’s Su­per Bowl match-up, par­tic­u­larly be­tween the 49ers’ de­fense and the Chiefs’ of­fense.

Stroupe rates the 49ers’ de­fen­sive line with some of the greats in the his­tory of the sport, and knows they’ll pose plenty of prob­lems for Ma­homes. (He ac­tu­ally also trains three play­ers on ‘Nin­ers ros­ter, in­clud­ing de­fen­sive line­man Solomon Thomas.)

“It’s go­ing to be an in­cred­i­ble chal­lenge,” Stroupe said. “I think Patrick’s go­ing to have to move around. The Chiefs have in­cred­i­ble coaches and they’ll have a great game plan, but the re­ceivers and run­ning backs can’t drop passes like they have. If they do, the 49ers will beat ‘em. But it’s go­ing to be a great match-up.”

Re­gard­less of the out­come next Sun­day, Stroupe is just ex­cited to see Ma­homes reach the pin­na­cle of the sport this early in his ca­reer. But, in Stroupe’s mind, this is just the be­gin­ning.


Kansas City Chiefs quar­ter­back Patrick Ma­homes works out with long­time per­sonal trainer Bobby Stroupe at APEC in Fort Worth last Fe­bru­ary.

Bobby Stroupe

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