MIAMI – He was a lowly intern in Philadelphia picking up dry cleaning or fast food for coaches. He was promoted to a faceless coach's assistant for a few years, then a nameless scout for a few more, and a decade later in Kansas City was mesmerized by a player on video no one else saw.
"What're you watching," Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid asked Brett Veach as video rolled.
"The next quarterback of the Chiefs," Veach said.
This is the Super Bowl story of how one man changes an entire franchise. It involves the larger story of Patrick Mahomes, sure, because he was the college quarterback on video that afternoon and has become the face of pro football.
There Mahomes was Monday night, surrounded by media, cornered by cameras, his answers on Super Bowl Opening Night projected across Marlins Park where hundreds of fans sat.
"Isn't this the dream of every kid?" he said.
There to the side, talking to a few reporters, stood Veach in a soft blue blazer. This was his dream, too. Mahomes' secret sharer is just the kind of person the great teams always have and struggling teams wonder why they don't.
He noticed the sophomore Mahomes while studying a Texas Tech offensive lineman for the draft. By the start of Mahomes' junior year, he was sure something special was there even if no one else saw it.
"I started sending (Reid) video clip after video clip, 10 at a time – each one showing what he could do," Veach said.
"Each one seemed better than the last," Reid said. "I finally said, 'Enough, I get it.' "
It's a funny thing about scouts. They watch the same plays, see the same moves, dissect the same player – and see everything differently. Veach wasn't just enamored by Mahomes. He sounds borderline obsessed. He contacted Chris Cabott, who partnered with Mahomes' agent, Leigh Steinberg, for 94 straight days heading into the draft.
"We had a good idea he'd be there for us in the draft, but we knew we'd have to trade up for him to be sure," Veach said. "The only thing you feared is a run on a position – once one quarterback went you wondered if they all would."
There are two ways to greatness. The first is to be awful for several years like Kansas City's Super Bowl opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. It had four straight draft picks in the top 10, including two at No. 2, the second of which became rookie defensive end and former Saint Thomas Aquinas High star Nick Bosa.
Kansas City took the other way. It saw what no one else did. It had a Pro Bowl quarterback in Alex Smith who led his team to the playoffs – think a better Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins fans – and still traded up for Mahomes.
The Chicago Bears, desperate for a quarterback, traded up a spot to take Mitch Trubisky at No. 2. San Francisco, desperate for a quarterback, traded from that No. 2 spot and took other players not named Mahomes.
The Buffalo Bills, also desperate for a quarterback, traded out of the 10th position to Kansas City. Teams like the Dolphins, who suffered through Jay Cutler after Tannehill tore his knee, weren't interested.
"Was never a thought, really," one Dolphins official said of Mahomes.
It seems so obvious now. Mahomes threads throws. Mahomes disassembles defenses. Mahomes throws left-handed, if needed, or runs 27 yards into the end zone, when that was needed to beat the Tennessee Titans last week.
How did only Veach see this to convince Reid? It's a cautionary tale of the draft build-up. No one saw it. Not those other teams. Not former NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, now the Las Vegas Raiders general manager, who had Mahomes going 32nd in his mock draft. ESPN's Mel Kiper graded Kansas City's draft a C-plus.
In Mahome's two years as starter, Kansas City hasn't lost by more than seven points. It advanced to the AFC Championship his first season as a starter when he was league MVP. It's in the Super Bowl this second season.
Veach shrugs in his soft blue blazer.
"He was raw," he says. "But he was special."
One decision. Two men. Three years later, they both stand here. One is the face of the NFL. The other? He's been promoted to Kansas City's general manager.