The euphoria of taking the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl since 1970 was still fresh on Patrick Mahomes' mind when his phone lit up with a text from Alex Smith.
Smith does that on occasion. He and Mahomes don't talk every day, but they do like to stay in touch since Smith was traded to the Washington Redskins prior to the 2018 season. He just wanted to congratulate his former backup on reaching the sport's ultimate stage in just his third season.
It's been more than two years since Smith played his final game with the Chiefs, but his one season with Mahomes still looms large in the young quarterback's career. In fact, he and head coach Andy Reid believe it helped lift Mahomes to where he is today.
"It gave me a blueprint, and it was something that helped me out a lot early in my career," Mahomes said on Jan. 28 ahead of Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers. "Just knowing what film I need to watch on what day and how to go out there and practice the right way."
The Chiefs paid heavily to get Mahomes in the 2017 NFL Draft. Although Smith had led the team to a 12-4 record and a trip to the divisional round of the playoffs, the Chiefs traded a bevy of picks, including two first-rounders, to move up 17 spots and draft Mahomes with the No.10 overall selection.
Smith was still the starting quarterback, though, so Mahomes played the backup role and learned under Smith's leadership. He wasn't out to take Smith's job, but he did compete every day. So, Smith let Mahomes into his world, Reid said, and Mahomes soaked in as much information as possible.
"He wasn't asked to do this," Reid said of Smith. "Alex kind of let him tag along on and off the field and showed him how to be a pro."
It wasn't just the schematic part of being in the NFL that Mahomes learned from Smith, although that was certainly a large portion of it. It also included everything else that came with being a successful player and person, such as his diet, workout plan and how to get his family acclimated to life in the NFL.
But it also included how to properly construct game plans before Sundays and knowing what film to watch and when to watch it. As Mahomes put it, Smith taught him "how a professional quarterback goes about his business."
"It was stuff that takes your full career to learn, and he taught me that in my first year and it's helped me have success at such an early age," he said.
All the while, Smith was giving Mahomes veteran insight on how to read NFL defenses. It wasn't just the basics around reading coverages, either; it was looking at defensive fronts for minute details to see which player was about to blitz.
"Those little things that I learned are invaluable," Mahomes said.
Reid completely agrees.
"I joke about it a lot, but it's true: Patrick couldn't pay Alex enough for what he gave him with that experience," Reid said.
Smith led the Chiefs to the playoffs once again in Mahomes first season, ultimately losing to the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round. The loss at Arrowhead Stadium turned out to be Smith's final game as a Chief, as he was traded to the Redskins on Jan. 30, 2018.
Mahomes doesn't believe Smith thought he was trying to take the starting role, but Smith helped him anyway, because that is who Smith is as a person.
"It was more than just being a football player," Mahomes said. "He was just a great person in general, and so he just taught me."
All those extra lessons quickly paid off for Mahomes. In his first season as the Chiefs' starting quarterback, he threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns while completing 66% of his passes. He led his team to the AFC Championship and was even voted the league's Most Valuable Player.
Now, even after missing two games with a dislocated kneecap, Mahomes finished the 2019 regular season throwing for 4,031 yards with 26 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He had a 105.3 passer rating and a QBR of 78 while taking just 17 sacks. In the playoffs, he led two comeback victories to help the Chiefs reach the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years.
In a short amount of time, Mahomes has become arguably the best quarterback in the league. And even though Smith has moved on and is working hard toward making a comeback from a broken leg, Chiefs fans can thank him for their quarterback's unprecedented success.
"I know a lot of quarterbacks go into situations where they don't get help like that," Mahomes said. "I knew I was blessed to be in a situation where I was behind him in this organization."