On a handful of passing attempts each game, Patrick Mahomes seemingly shreds the laws of physics.
When a quarterback drops back to throw, their brain must process a staggering amount of information in mere seconds. They must calculate the velocity of their receivers, the size of their targets, their locations on the field in relation to themselves, and then do the same for every defensive player bent on ruining it all. Then, they have to estimate how their own arm strength and accuracy factors into the equation. Once they crunch the calculus, they must choose one of two options—should I make this throw, or not?
What makes the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback so special is that he routinely answers “yes” to passing attempts for which there’s nearly no precedent, then executes them with a magical flick of the wrist. The amount of zip and power Mahomes possesses allows him to make throws other quarterbacks wouldn’t attempt in their wildest dreams. It unlocks a dimension of throwing lanes few have previously explored:
With a right arm seemingly enchanted by witchcraft, Mahomes threw for an eye-popping 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns during the 2018 regular season.
How did Mahomes build such a special arm?
He discussed that very topic with STACK for our 2017 Path to the Pros series.
“(I think it has to do) with just the fact that I’ve long-tossed since I was 5 years old. My dad, me and him would always work on long-tossing back and forth. So me doing that all the time, it just built arm strength,” Mahomes said.
Mahomes’ father was a professional baseball pitcher who spent 11 years in the MLB, so Patrick naturally grew up dreaming of following his footsteps. “Long toss” is a baseball drill that entails throwing the ball over a distance greater than you would typically encounter during game action. The exact distance depends on your physical maturity and skill level, but when implemented smartly and progressively, long toss is widely regarded as an excellent way to build arm strength and shoulder durability.
The goal shouldn’t be to see how far you can throw once or twice before your arm gives out, but rather to gradually make the distance you’re able to throw the ball fluidly and without pain greater and greater over time. It’s believed Mahomes was regularly throwing a baseball well over 200 feet by the time he was 10 years old—a supernatural figure for a pre-teen athlete.
Mahomes still performs the football equivalent of “long toss” prior to every game, casually catapulting pigskins nearly end zone to end zone. “That is strictly from baseball,” Mahomes told The Ringer of his long warm-up throws. “To me, until I get those long tosses in, I haven’t loosened up my arm. I haven’t gotten my arm going. It’s the same as if someone runs and loosens their legs. It’s my pattern.” The pre-game routine has remained largely unchanged since his days at Whitehouse High School (Whitehouse, Texas), when Mahomes would occasionally ding the opposing team’s punter due to the sprawling trajectory of his passes.
But baseball didn’t just help Mahomes build his Howitzer-like arm strength—it also helped him develop an ability to deliver passes on the move and from a wide variety of arm angles. Mahomes spent much of his baseball career as a shortstop, a position where the player is often forced to rifle throws from awkward, unorthodox body positions. Just as a shortstop cannot always take the time to set their feet and deliver a “standard” throw if they want to beat a baserunner, quarterbacks are also often forced to improvise passes before a window slams shut.
“I think a lot of it is from baseball and how I could sling the ball across the diamond. I played shortstop my whole life. I never had my feet under me. I was always making throws across my body,” Mahomes told Texas Football magazine in 2016.
In addition to Mahomes, quarterbacks like Dan Marino, John Elway, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson have also stated that their amateur baseball careers played a role in their success as signal callers. Read more about the strong connection between a background in baseball and elite quarterbacks here.
Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images