When you’re the reigning NFL most valuable player, a slew of companies are likely going to come at you with endorsement and investment opportunities and options. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has chosen to take a more selective approach, including deals for Head & Shoulders, Helzberg Diamonds and an ownership stake in The MVP Experience, an extended reality project in partnership with immersive entertainment company CityLights.
This project will have fans at Chiefs home games at Arrowhead Stadium— thanks to an official partnership with the team— put on a VR headset and be transported on the field in Kansas City. You’re the quarterback facing a defense with the crowd noise making things difficult to process, but virtual Mahomes will be there to coach you on finding holes in the defense to drive your team down the field to victory. The MVP Experience will also use augmented reality holograms with fans’ phones, and a mixed reality video will be available for fans afterwards so they can share their experience on social media.
When Mahomes’ representatives came to him with this business idea, the 23-year-old superstar thought back to his childhood and the QBs he loved to emulate.
“As I grew up and idolized and watched some of these quarterbacks that played the game, I always wanted to see exactly what they were doing and how they did it,” Mahomes said in a phone interview Tuesday after finishing off a Chiefs walkthrough. “And so when they came to me with this idea, I knew it was something I wanted to look into even more. And once I met the people behind it and their drive to make it the best possible thing they could, I knew it was the perfect fit for me.”
If you look at Mahomes’ unique style of play, it would come as no surprise that the first quarterback he learned to love was Brett Favre.
“Just to see him scrambling around the field and finding ways to make impossible throws, I always wanted to see what did the window look like when he made that throw and how did he make it,” Mahomes said. “I feel like that was something that inspired me to get out there and try to make these throws and do all these different arm angles.”
Later on, Mahomes saw Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo make amazing plays, so the concept of fans being able to go into his mindset and get an up-close view on what he sees was something that really appealed to the Tyler, Texas native.
“They’re going to be able to go out there and step into my shoes, at least for a couple of plays,” Mahomes said. “I knew that people would be interested, and I wanted to do whatever I could to show them this technology and show them what we do on a daily basis, trying to go out there and win football games.”
CityLights co-founder Joel Newton is putting The MVP Experience project together along with Travis Cloyd, who is known for award-winning work in extended reality. Other executive producers include Mahomes, CityLights co-founder David Ganek and Tyler Epp, the Chiefs’ executive vice president of business operations. In addition to a good working relationship with and a belief in the aforementioned team, Mahomes was drawn to The MVP Experience because of its new and innovative nature.
“As I looked at things that I wanted to do, I wanted to find ways that I could do different things that no one else has done before,” Mahomes said. “And this is definitely one project that I was excited to do.”
Mahomes was first introduced to virtual reality technology during his third and final season at Texas Tech, where the Red Raiders used VR to help players perform drills and scout opposing teams.
“We weren’t necessarily live, but we were doing live reps at the same time,” Mahomes said. “And we would go back in and actually watch the film through the headsets and see exactly what we were seeing on the field or as close to it as you possibly could to get those extra reps. Even guys who had some injuries and were not able to practice would use that to get the reps that they couldn’t.”
As VR and AR use becomes more prevalent, football broadcasts are trying to incorporate more of these elements in graphics and other segments to try and give viewers a feel for what the quarterback sees on the field. To Mahomes, The MVP Experience is a natural extension of that, and may even help out the next Mahomes.
Life has certainly changed for the MVP over the last calendar year. From beginning his first full season as Chiefs starter, to taking the league by storm and being deemed the future of professional football who nearly led Kansas City to the Super Bowl, Mahomes said he gets recognized a lot more in public now and is able to use his superstar status to meet a lot of interesting people. That full year of transcendent football also gave him a better understanding of what it takes to have success in the NFL.
“On a daily basis, how much work you have to put in in order to be great on and off the field,” Mahomes said. “And so that’s something I have a better understanding of and I keep learning as I get more experience.”
Mahomes said he’s also willing to try new and unique ways to improve as a player, and VR is definitely a part of that. He and the CityLights team believe there’s potential to expand the project to other stadiums around the country and bring the experience to as many people as possible.
“We’re starting small with the mindset of hopefully making this much bigger,” Mahomes said. “It’s something that’s so new to the sports world and the gaming world, so we’re excited about going out there and being able to have this platform to test it out and hopefully it does well.”