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Super Bowl LVII’s Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts chasing greatness while honoring past Black QBs

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And yet, those slights are often forgotten when the games begin. Yeager and others contend that any slights, real or perceived, tend to help an athlete lock in during the lead-up to games, narrowing their focus in practice or raising their intensity in workouts. But once the game starts, muscle memory and training take over.

“I’ve worked with thousands of athletes in all sports, and drive is the big thing,” said Graham Betchart, a mental skills coach with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. “It starts for a lot of people with, What are you against? People say you can’t do this or you can’t do that, and you respond to it. But at a certain level, it becomes, What are you with? not What are you against?

“It’s like if you’re on a surfboard, and instead of paddling against the wave, where you feel a resistance and say it’s a great challenge, now you’re going with the wave. You’re going with the flow. When someone is in the zone, afterward they will tell you, ‘There wasn’t any resistance. I was just flowing. I wasn’t thinking about anything.’ That’s our best performance. Chip on your shoulder — it can get you to work out every day. But when we have our ultimate greatness, our best, no one ever says my best came out tonight because I was in total resistance and wanted to prove someone wrong. No, it was: I got into the zone, I got present, I was fully trusting, and I got into a different dimension.”

If any player ever had a reason to have a chip on his shoulder, it was Doug Williams. In 1978, he became the first Black quarterback to be drafted in the first round, going 17th overall to the Buccaneers. But he never got the respect or the salary he deserved in his early years, which forced him to jump to the USFL.

In many respects, he carried the weight of not only his team on his shoulders, but also his race. He would sit at his locker after a loss with Tampa Bay and reflect on what had just happened and what was going to be said in the public, aware that how he did could have a direct impact on whether Black quarterbacks coming up behind him would get a fair shot.

And yet, Williams said he never played with a chip on his shoulder. And in his mind, there really is no reason for either Hurts or Mahomes to do it, though he understands the narrative.

“I can see where Jalen was a little upset by not getting drafted in the first round, or people saying he was more athletic than a quarterback,” Williams said. “You can say he’s got a chip on his shoulder, but I never had that. The most important thing was, you don’t have to go out and show them; you have to go out and show yourself.

“What Jalen has done is, probably reinvent himself from his first two years at Alabama. The people who were saying that about Jalen watched him early on in his career, but they don’t give him no credit for transferring to Oklahoma, where he did everything that Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray have done. The last couple of years, you can see how much he has transformed himself. His throwing motion has improved and he stands in the pocket. You got a guy who finished the season with only one loss, and it’s not because of his running ability solely. And if you drop back and stand in the pocket like he does, you’ve got to be able to read defenses. That in itself tells you this kid is in the Super Bowl because he’s as good as any quarterback in this league.”

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