These days, it has become difficult to imagine there were times before Patrick Mahomes was the face of the National Football League — before the quarterback won an MVP award in his first season as starter and before he led the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl in 50 seasons.
So when someone who knew Mahomes prior to his megastardom signs with the Chiefs, there is an inherent fascination that goes along with when he knew.
And such was the case for running back DeAndre Washington, Mahomes’ college teammate from 2014-15 at Texas Tech. Washington was a junior when Mahomes first took the field his freshman season.
“I remember Patrick’s first few days of practice — he was kind of just running around playing backyard football,” said Washington as he recalled 2014 on a conference call with the Kansas City media Wednesday. “It was something that we weren’t accustomed to at the time at Tech, so it was just kind of strange. And I’m like, ‘Man, I don’t know if this is going to work in a game. I don’t know how this is going to pan out.’
“Nevertheless, it was just Pat being Pat, and once those lights came on, I just feel like he took his game to another level. That was kind of my first memories of him... he had a baseball background, and he was just different.”
Washington was not surprised when the coaching staff effectively chose Mahomes over Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield.
“He was just able to make a lot of plays most guys couldn’t.”
Washington, 27, entered the NFL Draft after his senior season at Texas Tech, and the Oakland Raiders selected him in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Mahomes remained at Texas Tech for his junior season, when he exploded for more than 5,000 yards and 63 combined touchdowns.
As is now Kansas City scripture, the Chiefs traded up to select Mahomes with the 10th overall pick in 2017.
“I was one of [his] biggest supporters coming out,” said Washington. “I used to tell guys that didn’t really know about him, ‘This kid is different. He’s just a different breed.’ It didn’t resonate with a lot of guys until he got that first season under his belt, and they was like, ‘OK, well, I see what you mean now.’
“Some guys kind of got an it factor. Thankfully so, he’s one of those guys.”
Washington said he and Mahomes have kept in consistent contact since their college days, which ended up coming in handy as he made his free agency decision this offseason. Down to the Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets, he called Mahomes to find out more about Kansas City.
“I called him and just got some insight and some perspective — what he enjoyed the most and just some things outside of football that we talked about,” said Washington. “Once I told him I was interested, he was definitely on board and trying to get me in. We had a few conversations prior to the decision being made and after talking with him, I felt a lot more comfortable about making that decision.”
Washington’s four years in Oakland never came with a genuine opportunity to start as a lead back, as he found himself behind veterans Latavius Murray, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, and then rookie first-rounder Josh Jacobs in successive seasons. Kansas City’s backfield is awfully crowded, too, but not with three Pro Bowlers and the PFWA rookie of the year.
With Jacobs dealing with a shoulder injury last year, Washington started three of Oakland’s last four games.
“I was just ready — I was ready to go,” said Washington. “I was very glad I was able to get that opportunity. It was unfortunate Josh (Jacobs) got hurt, but it was a good opportunity for me to showcase what I’m all about and that’s an every-down back — being able to carry the load, so I just wanted to take full advantage of that opportunity once I got it.”
His combined stats in those contests were 54 carries for 214 yards (3.96 yards per carry) and two touchdowns and 16 catches for 119 yards. Washington’s ability to work as a weapon in both the run and pass game was likely attractive to Chiefs general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid.
“I’m a huge fan of Andy Reid. I’ve followed him way back to really understand football,” said Washington. “His creativity — it’s one of those deals where he can run the same play 100 different ways and I just think that puts a lot of pressure on defenses, when you’re able to... dress up a play, and once you really scrape it down, it’s the same play. Just his creativity — getting guys involved and getting guys to play to their strengths, so I’m looking forward to that.”
In addition to his respect for Reid and his familiarity with the MVP quarterback, Washington also revealed he has a built-in relationship with the Chiefs’ current offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy. Bieniemy tried to recruit Washington to Colorado when he was the offensive coordinator at the university there back in 2011.
Washington said he will work virtually with Bieniemy, running backs coach Deland McCullough and the rest of the coaching staff to learn the play terminology from Houston, Texas, where he spends his time during the offseason. Washington played high school football at Thurgood Marshall in a town called Missouri City, southwest of Houston.
So the kid from Missouri City who always held a deep respect for Reid and just happened to know Mahomes before he was Mahomes wound up a Chief after spending four seasons as a Raider.
Washington’s perspective on Mahomes’ story is intriguing; so, too, is his own.