By Frank Pingue
TORONTO (Reuters) – Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes may one day write his own chapter in the NFL record book but should make the most of his first Super Bowl appearance in case he never returns, according to Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino.
Mahomes, in his third NFL season and second as a full-time starter, is 24 years old and will become the fifth-youngest quarterback to start a Super Bowl when his Chiefs face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in Miami.
His quick arrival on the NFL’s biggest stage is not unlike that of former Miami Dolphins quarterback Marino, who fell short in the only Super Bowl appearance he made in the second year of a 17-year career many felt would lead to multiple championships.
“Take advantage of your opportunities because you don’t know what the future holds,” Marino, whose Dolphins team was beaten by the 49ers in 1985, told Reuters in Toronto this week.
“I thought for sure that I would be in at least two or three more Super Bowls, especially when you are 23 years old the first time and you end up playing for a long time.”
Mahomes has shown as much grit as flash since getting the starting job and has proven to be a walking highlight reel with incredible arm strength and an ability to beat opponents on the ground when his receivers are covered.
During the AFC Championship, Mahomes broke from the pocket and went off on a 27-yard tightrope-run along the left sideline that ended with a sprawl into the end zone for a touchdown run that will undoubtedly live forever in Chiefs lore.
In the Chiefs’ previous game, with the team’s season hanging in the balance, Mahomes led Kansas City on an improbable rally from 24-0 with five touchdown passes in a 51-31 victory that is one of the most emphatic comebacks in league history.
In his first year as the starter, Mahomes eclipsed 5,000 yards passing and led the NFL with 50 touchdown passes.
“That used to be me way back when, so I could appreciate what he’s been doing,” said Marino.
“Just the way his style of play is, he can throw from all arm angles, he can make all the throws, he’s competitive really that’s the one thing. Coming back in the playoffs from 24 down is amazing.”
But playing in a Super Bowl is a different beast, especially for those making their first appearance, given the challenge of managing distractions and staying focused during the build-up to the most-watched American TV event of year.
Marino, who remains the youngest quarterback to ever start a Super Bowl, said Mahomes would be well served if he can remain laser focused and not get caught up in the massive spectacle surrounding the one-game, winner-take-all showdown.
“Just go out and remember how you got there, how you played each game, the things you did in those games to be successful and don’t let it get away from you,” said Marino in an interview organized by global sports streaming service DAZN.
“When I played in my (Super Bowl) I felt like I wanted to play it again the next day because it just happened so fast and it was over and we lost the game and I was like I wish it could be a three-game series or something.”
While a championship eluded Marino, he established himself as one of the game’s most prolific passers. By the time he retired following the 1999 season, he had rewritten the passing section of the NFL’s record book.
Marino, now 58, is widely considered the best quarterback to never win a Super Bowl championship but despite all the other awards and accomplishments he still thinks about that missed opportunity from 35 years ago.
“I look at it as if that’s the only thing that I didn’t achieve in football,” said Marino. “Just that feeling on the last Sunday of the year walking off as a winner.
“Do I think about it? Yeah, sure I think about it. I wish it was something I was able to feel, that feeling of being a Super Bowl champion.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)