What are the odds that two of the biggest names in Super Bowl LIV between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs are sons to sports figures who were working in the Twin Cities when they were born?
For the Chiefs, it’s quarterback Patrick Mahomes II. For the 49ers, it’s coach Kyle Shanahan.
Mahomes was born to Pat Mahomes Sr., who pitched for the Twins from 1992-1996 and had been drafted by the club in 1988 as a 17-year-old high school prospect out of Lindale (Texas) High School.
He joined the Twins in 1992 when the team was coming off their 1991 World Series title and drew 3 million fans to the Metrodome, but the fact is he never really found success as a starter with the Twins.
He posted a 18-28 record over five seasons with a 5.82 ERA. But on September 17, 1995, his son, Patrick, was born. One day later, Mahomes Sr. pitched 3⅓ shutout innings and picked up a save in the Twins’ 10-4 victory over the Royals.
Shanahan, meanwhile, was born in Minneapolis on December 14, 1979.
His father, Mike Shanahan, now a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest football coaches of all time, was at the time working as offensive coordinator for the Gophers under Joe Salem.
Mike Shanahan was just getting his start in coaching. Before joining the Gophers, he had worked as an offensive assistant coach at Oklahoma, running backs coach at Northern Arizona and as offensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois.
The Gophers averaged 24 points per game that season and Shanahan, who was already viewed as an offensive coaching star, got hired by Florida coach Charley Pell in 1980.
It was Shanahan’s performance at Florida from 1980-83 that eventually led him to take his first NFL job in 1987, as wide receivers coach and eventually offensive coordinator for Dan Reeves with the Denver Broncos from 1984-87.
Shanahan told me in ’87 that his decision to leave the Gophers wasn’t an easy one.
“Florida was coming off a [0-10-1] season when Charley Pell called me. Joe Salem was an offensive-minded person. Pell preferred to coach the defense. Pell let me run the entire offense. We had a lot of talent. I came in at the right time. We were [32-15-1 in] the four years I was there.”
Shanahan said when he got the call to become an NFL coach, he couldn’t believe it.
“I was out recruiting for Florida and when I returned to my hotel room, there was a message to call Reeves,” he said. “I was sure somebody was pulling a joke on me. But I returned the call to Reeves, who was at the Senior Bowl at the time. Dan told me that his backfield coach, John Hadl, had accepted a job in the USFL. He asked me to come down to Mobile and interview for the job. I obviously got the job, and it has turned out to be a great experience.”
Mike was part of three Super Bowl-winning teams — as offensive coordinator for the 49ers in 1995 and as head coach of the Broncos in 1998 and 1999 — and now he and his son, Kyle, are the first father-son duo to both coach in a Super Bowl.
While everyone now knows Patrick Mahomes as one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, the 2018 league MVP was at one time also a great baseball prospect.
After he had committed to play his college football at Texas Tech, the Detroit Tigers still took a flier on him and drafted him in the 37th round in the 2014 MLB draft.
Baseball America had this draft report on Mahomes in 2014:
“Mahomes’ father of the same name spent parts of 11 seasons in the major leagues and was still pitching in independent ball until 2009. His son has a bigger, more physical frame at a listed 6-2, 214 pounds and has shown a low-90s fastball on the mound while also showcasing excellent arm strength when he plays right field. Some evaluators like him better as a hitter who is an average runner with plus raw power from a raw offensive approach. Mahomes appears to prefer football, however, with good reason. He’s a quarterback committed to Texas Tech.”
Mahomes Sr., who was also a multisport athlete in high school, told the New York Daily News this month that he was always supportive of his son’s decision to play football over baseball.
“It’s a thing where you raise them to have the best opportunities to succeed,” Mahomes Sr. said. “He fell in love with football and he decided that that would be something he wanted to pursue. I’m his father and everything, so my job is to support him and to make sure that we looked at all the avenues and all the angles. He decided what he wanted to do, so we went all in.”
He also told the paper that one of the things he taught his son was that you have to be creative on the field.
“We always had a mantra. The thing I always said to him was, ‘Players make plays,’ ” Mahomes Sr. said. “He does whatever he can to make a play and that is refreshing in itself. He does a lot of what they call backyard football or playground football, where he rolls out a lot trying to make the big play. He’s blessed with a big arm and he makes some plays that other quarterbacks can’t make. I didn’t know if it would translate at the professional level, but every level he just kept doing the same thing. It kept working, so I guess it did translate.”
Kubiak hired Kyle
While the connection between Mike and Kyle Shanahan and Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is well-known — Kyle was known to have wanted to bring in Cousins as a free agent when he got the 49ers head coaching job in 2017 — another Vikings link is that assistant head coach Gary Kubiak once hired Kyle as wide receivers coach of the Texans in 2006.
“He had a great relationship. Gary hired Kyle,” Mike Shanahan told me. “He was at Tampa Bay working for Jon Gruden as an offensive assistant and when Gary got the job in Houston back in 2006 he called Kyle up and offered him the wide receivers job and the next year he moved him over to quarterbacks and the next year he moved him over to play caller and coordinator.
“I mean, Gary gave Kyle a great opportunity as well.”
Mike said one of the benefits of having his son doing so well with the 49ers is that he gets to stay connected with the NFL after retiring in 2013.
“Once in a while I do things with Kyle down in San Francisco,” Mike said. “Any time your kids are involved in football, you’re involved a little bit. I have some fun with it, but I don’t get involved like I used to.”