When Tom Brady started winning Super Bowls, Patrick Mahomes was drawing rainbows

Henry Bushnell
·4 min read

In 2005, when one of this year’s Super Bowl quarterbacks was winning his third NFL title, and when he was dating a Hollywood actress, earning millions of dollars per year, the other was in Mrs. Gibson’s third grade class.

“Hi, this is Patrick Mahomes and this is my story,” he wrote one day.

“Next, I am going to tell you that I am 9 years old.”

The other quarterback, Tom Brady, was 27 at the time. He’d long been dicing secondaries and mingling with celebrities. Patrick, meanwhile, was learning to draw rainbows and flowers, and to spell tricky words at All Saints Episcopal School in Tyler, Texas.

“Well, my favorite sports are baseball and basetball [sic],” he wrote. “Then I will have to tell you that I like people that talk a lot and are funny. Next, I am going to tell you that I eat a lot, but I am skinny. I like to play sports and get dirty.

“My future plans ar [sic] to play baseball or basetball [sic] just like my dad.”

Sixteen years later, Patrick and Tom will meet in Super Bowl LV. It’ll be the largest age difference between starting quarterbacks in the history of the uber-popular game. While Brady was winning his third ring, Mahomes was honing his handwriting. When Brady won his first in 2002, Patrick hadn’t even graduated kindergarten.

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports illustration)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports illustration)

But before long, he was mapping out his career. By first grade, he was practicing his throwing motion. His teacher, Ginger Stewart, remembers moving Patrick to the back of her classroom – because, as she affectionately says now, “he just could not sit still.”

The image is still engrained in Stewart’s mind – “of him standing at his desk at the back of the room, with one knee in the chair. His book was laying open on his desk. And he was reading. But his arm was constantly throwing a ball – an imaginary ball.

“And he would rear back so far, and I would say, ‘Patrick, be careful! If someone walks behind you, you're gonna hit him!’ ”

Without images like this, it’s difficult to conceptualize a peer-to-peer age gap of 18 years and 45 days. So, ahead of Brady vs. Mahomes, Yahoo Sports tracked down young Patrick’s teachers ... and found that when Brady was defending his first NFL title, Mahomes was learning about butterflies. When Brady was winning his second, Mahomes was embracing Phonics.

Oh, and a couple months later, he was hunting for Easter eggs in a two-sizes-too-large Abercrombie T-shirt. The front of it blared, in yellow lettering: “FUTURE LEGEND”

Few second-grade prophecies have ever come so true.

Future legend Patrick Mahomes goes hunting for Easter eggs in the second grade. (Courtesy of Andi Tatum)
Future legend Patrick Mahomes goes hunting for Easter eggs in the second grade. (Courtesy of Andi Tatum)

But Patrick wasn’t cocky, his teachers say. He was a playground leader and precocious athlete, organizing kickball and other games at recess. But “he didn't ever act like he was all that,” says Susan Gibson, who had him in third grade. “He was just so sweet.”

In first grade, while Brady was the reigning Super Bowl MVP, Mahomes was learning to read. Stewart, his teacher, will see him on TV nowadays, and think: “Those are still those little first-grade eyes standing there at the corner of my desk reading with me.”

In second grade, around the time Brady downed the Carolina Panthers, Mahomes was learning his U.S. history. “They all got to choose a president, and got to dress up,” says Andi Tatum, his teacher. “We would have them stand up there like they were doing their inauguration speech.”

In third grade, with Brady en route to another Lombardi, Mahomes showed up for “favorite book character day” as Harry Potter.

On most days, though, he donned an oversized polo and baggy khakis. In art class once a week, he’d make various bowls and other structures out of clay. Teachers remember him as “respectful,” and as “a great friend to everyone.”

They’ve all followed his athletic career since. “You still see that little boy face,” Tatum says. Most of all, they remember the voice – because, they all say, over two decades, it’s barely changed.

“That gravelly, deep voice,” says Jane Adams, his art teacher.

“Kinda low and raspy,” Gibson remembers.

“I can still see and hear it right there,” Stewart says.

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