Super Bowl run began for Mahomes at Fort Worth’s APEC
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.”
ON A MISSION
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.”
FINISHING IT OFF
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.