DETROIT -- Long before Patrick Mahomes became the talk of the NFL Draft as a high-ceiling quarterback, the Tigers had already taken a chance on him. He was already a long shot to play baseball back then, but his strong arm and baseball roots were worth the risk.
As Mahomes awaits a potential first-round selection in Thursday night's NFL Draft, the former Tigers 37th-round pick has clearly improved his stock. But considering the low-risk selection, the Tigers have no regrets.
Mahomes grew up in a baseball family, the son of longtime Major League reliever Pat Mahomes. Though his strong arm was apparent as a pitcher, he told the Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday that he fell in love with football in high school, and made it clear to teams that were scouting him in baseball.
That did not stop baseball scouts from thinking about his potential as a pitcher in the spring of 2014.
"He was very up-front about football. That pushed him down the board," said Tim Grieve, the Tigers' area scout who watched him. "He was one of the better athletes I've covered in East Texas in my 15 years."
On the mound, Grieve said, Mahomes could throw in the mid-90s, so it wasn't a surprise for Grieve when he became known for his strong arm as a quarterback at Texas Tech. But he was also a very good outfielder. He was actually a three-sport athlete, Grieve recalled, and might have been a Division I player in that sport had it been his focus.
What also stood out was Mahomes' personality and work ethic. Grieve, a Big 12 football fan himself, saw that come through as Mahomes became a star at Texas Tech.
"If he had just focused on the mound, we'd be talking about somebody throwing 94-95," Grieve said. "How he throws a football is a lot like how he throws a baseball."
Had Mahomes been more open to baseball, he would've been a higher pick in that 2014 Draft. But in the 37th round, a point when most anyone drafted is a long shot, the Tigers decided to use a pick just in case he changed his mind or football didn't work out.
Grieve has no regrets. Whoever drafts Mahomes, he said, is going to get a good kid and great athlete. And while he would've loved to see Mahomes in a Tigers uniform, he made a good move believing in himself in football.
"He clearly made a really good decision," Grieve said.