ATLANTA — The MVP chants followed Patrick Mahomes for the better part of the last two months.
On the field at Arrowhead Stadium, in the tunneled pathway from the field to the locker room on game days and in the cavernous hall that held Friday's NFL Experience in Atlanta.
On Saturday, the chorus of voices spoke their three-letter refrain into existence when Mahomes was named the league's Most Valuable Player at the league's annual NFL Honors ceremony.
Let's say that again: Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, is the NFL's MVP.
With 50 touchdowns and more than 5,000 passing yards in his first season as a starter, Mahomes, 23, beat out New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for the league's most prestigious award.
"This season, almost every single week, even the weeks we didn't win, (was) unbelievably exciting in large part because of Patrick," team CEO and owner Clark Hunt told The Star. "And that's not only about Patrick as a player and what he did on the field, but it was about watching him emerge as a leader, somebody his teammates looked for. The way he handles fans and the media, how thoughtful he is, how humble he is, how willing to give others the credit.
"To some degree, we knew he had those qualities. To see him exhibit all of that in the pressure-cooker that is an NFL season was really amazing."
Mahomes is the Chiefs' first MVP and only the second among the four major professional sports in Kansas City, joining Royals legend George Brett in that exclusive club.
Selected by the Chiefs with the 10th pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Mahomes spent his first season with the franchise on the bench, learning from veteran Alex Smith. But once Smith was traded to Washington this time a year ago, Mahomes took over as the Chiefs' starter.
He entered the season with immense praise from the highest offices in the franchise. General manager Brett Veach called Mahomes "one of the best players I've ever seen" _ something that at the time sounded far-fetched and hyperbolic given the small sample size of Mahomes' abilities as a pro before the 2018 season.
And then the preseason began, and with a flick of the wrist, Mahomes threw a 69-yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill in Atlanta during the Chiefs' second preseason game. That was just a glimpse of the physics-defying, jaw-dropping and downright absurd throws he would make over the next five months. He threw his first NFL touchdown pass in the first quarter of the season-opener against the Chargers as Hill turned a short completion into a 58-yard score.
From there, Mahomes went on to throw another 49 regular-season touchdowns. And he ran for two on top of that.
Though it wasn't his primary goal this season, this individual honor is something of a salve for the pain that lingers from just barely missing the Super Bowl. The Chiefs lost 37-31 in overtime to the New England Patriots in the Jan. 20 AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium _ a game that could've sent them, and not the Patriots, to Super Bowl LIII to play the Los Angeles Rams.
The Chiefs finished 13-5 overall, with one win and one loss in the playoffs after a 12-4 regular season in Mahomes' first year as a starter after supplanting veteran Alex Smith.
"I didn't expect to throw for 50 touchdowns and do that stuff," Mahomes told Soren Petro of 810 WHB Friday afternoon. "I knew we were going to be good. I knew we had a lot of talent. For me, it was all about going out there and being myself. I think that was the biggest thing. I went out there and I was myself and had a lot of teammates around me that made a lot of great plays."
Friday afternoon, Olathe North High School graduate Jason Etzen and Chiefs fan shouted to Mahomes from a meet-and-greet line in Atlanta.
"Patrick," he yelled, "you're the MVP!"
Mahomes just grinned.
"I'm trying," he replied. "We'll see."
Less than 24 hours later, there was no more trying, waiting, hoping or wishing.
Patrick Mahomes is the MVP.