Patrick Mahomes spent hours in the game room in the back of the house he grew up in, trying over and over to figure out how to do the thing he couldn’t: beat his dad.
This wasn’t in a real-life competition, but rather a virtual one. Mahomes and his father, Pat, would play EA Sports’ Madden video game franchise often, and as much as he tried, the future Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and Madden 20 and 22 cover athlete couldn’t win.
“My dad used to beat me with Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper and the Vikings,” Mahomes told ESPN during an interview about his selection as a Madden 22 cover athlete. “He would just throw like, just, bombs for touchdowns, and I would be like crying in the game room.
“It was a lot of fun, and I always used to try to get better when I played it, and I still play to this day.”
Mahomes, a Dallas Cowboys fan as a kid, tried using every team to beat his father but with little success. He even tried using the team of fellow cover athlete Tom Brady, who has had his own Madden adventures. Using Brady or anyone else, Mahomes would log hour after hour practicing the game, but Culpepper-to-Moss was unstoppable.
Playing also taught Mahomes some of the basics of football, helping him understand different routes and formations. The game has evolved since those days, but Mahomes still plays and, when he can, he’ll use himself and the Chiefs. And when he is the Chiefs, he often imparts his father’s old strategy: Mahomes-to-Tyreek Hill can be as crushing as Culpepper-to-Moss.
Often, he’ll play teammates. But the gamer he is, sometimes he’ll jump online and just play random people who have no idea they are facing a guy who is actually a 99 overall in last year’s game.
“I definitely do for sure,” Mahomes said. “I’m not giving out my gamer tag or anything like that, but I’ll play online every once in a while.
“For the most part I usually play guys on the team, and I’ll tell you what, there are guys on the team that are the real deal. I get my butt beat sometimes, but I try to hang in there.”
Brady — Mahomes’ cover counterpart for Madden 22 — doesn’t lose at much. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback can share in Mahomes’ feeling of not winning at Madden. Not by playing random opponents online. But by playing his children.
Like Mahomes, Brady played Madden against friends as a kid. He also loved playing the old NCAA Football games. And when his kids were old enough, he introduced them to Madden.
At first, he would beat them.
“And now I have zero chance,” Brady told ESPN. “I mean, it’s not even close. Unfortunately, they don’t even want to play with me much anymore. You know, they’d rather just play with their friends, but yeah, they are definitely into it and I still have fun playing it.”
When Brady plays now, he uses guys he knows. His kids will sometimes play as virtual Brady, but Brady said sometimes they choose to use Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson or Mahomes instead. And when Brady is playing with them, he will commandeer his virtual self before they can.
As he plays, he notices things that are incredibly realistic and some things that are less so. But it has grown a lot from when he first started playing multiple generations of consoles ago.
Like many parents, Brady tried to limit the amount of time his kids played games. But then his kids’ friends were on so much he had no choice but to relent a bit.
“It’s how they communicate through their friends, they’ve got the headsets,” Brady said. “It’s a community of gamers and you can’t, because the games are so good and so lifelike, they just, they get so popular so quick. Their friends are playing, they want to play, and that’s how they communicate sometimes. So to give up an hour or a couple hours on the weekend to do it is fun for them.
“They always look forward to it. But I definitely understand why, because I was the same way when I was a kid.”
One of the teams Mahomes used to try to beat his dad with when he was a kid was the New England Patriots. Its quarterback? Tom Brady. And now the two QBs are together on the game’s cover for 2022.