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Super Bowl LIII

MVP Patrick Mahomes is now part of the legendary black quarterback fraternity

‘If he gets any better than he is right now, I think the league is in for a helluva quarterback’

Patrick Mahomes capped a breakthrough season for himself and African-American quarterbacks Saturday night when he was named the NFL’s MVP.

In accepting his award, Mahomes thanked his team, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the team’s organization and told fans, “This is just the beginning, we got a long way to go.”

He could easily have been talking about the continuing evolution of African-American quarterbacks in the NFL.

A record five African-American quarterbacks led their teams into this postseason, though none of them reached the Super Bowl.

Most experts predict that the style and flair with which they play will become a staple in the NFL over the next 10 years.

Mahomes, 23, became the second African-American quarterback to win the NFL’s MVP award outright. Steve McNair shared the award with Peyton Manning in 2003.

He is the youngest quarterback to throw for 50 touchdowns in a season and tied for the youngest to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season.

Quarterback legends Warren Moon, Doug Williams and James Harris discussed the significance of Mahomes winning the award. They represent three important pillars of the African-American quarterback evolution in the NFL.

In 1969, Harris became the first black quarterback to start the regular season at quarterback; in 1974, he became the first to start a playoff game. Williams became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl championship on Jan. 31, 1988.

In 2006, Moon became the first black quarterback to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 1990 and the AFC Offensive Player of the Year that same year.

Moon, Williams and Harris shared some of what they think about Mahomes’ play this season.

THOUGHTS ABOUT MAHOMES WINNING the MVP AWARD

DOUG WILLIAMS:

“When you think about this league and the quarterbacks who are in this league, for a guy that young to have the season he’s had — and to be consistent. That’s the key: He’s not inconsistent at all. He might have had a bad spot here and there, but you’re talking about a young guy who has picked up on this game probably quicker than anybody I’ve seen in this league — in his second year. … To do what he’s done, it’s incredible.”

WARREN MOON:

“For a kid to be in his first year as a starter and to do something only three guys have done — throw 50 touchdown passes — throw for over 5,000 yards, then lead his team to the AFC championship game, that pretty amazing. Everybody was looking for him to have that rookie nosedive during the season — it never happened. The kid just kept playing. He was consistent the whole year. The sky’s the limit for him. He’s special.”

JAMES HARRIS:

“For a young guy, he’s passed every test. They’ve been behind, and the game was on the line. He’s made the plays for them to win. He’s been able to get his team off to a quick start. He can make throws you don’t even allow anybody to practice. The throws he makes, nobody can coach them but him.”

THE KEY to MAHOMES HAVING A LONG, PROSPEROUS CAREER?

HARRIS:

“The key for him is that when you win these awards and have the kind of year he’s had, you have to work even harder in the offseason. The offseason is his future. He has to continue to try to improve, continue to work on his craft. Don’t rest on your laurels.”

WILLIAMS:

“He doesn’t seem like a guy who’s going to get complacent and just enjoy what his success has been. I think he’s a guy who’s going to try to get better than he already is. If he gets any better than he is right now, I think the league is in for a helluva quarterback.”

MOON:

“The only thing for him is that he’s set the bar so high this year. If he comes back next year and throws 35, 36 touchdowns, they’ll say he had a bad year. If he throws for 3,500 yards, they’ll say why are his numbers down.

“He’s got to try to get better than he was this year, try to work a little harder only because you set the bar so high for yourself. You also don’t want to take on too much. That’s why teams don’t repeat Super Bowls, everybody’s doing banquets, making appearances. Before you know it, it’s training camp and you’re tired.”

MAHOMES is making the RUN-PASS OPTION Reality in the NFL

MOON:

“Everybody’s doing RPO, but not many can do what he does. He’s special, but does it allow more opportunity for more African-American quarterbacks? Yes, because that’s kind of our game.”

HARRIS:

All I know is that he’s fun to watch. He’s must-see TV.”

William C. Rhoden, the former award-winning sports columnist for The New York Times and author of “Forty Million Dollar Slaves,” is a writer-at-large for The Undefeated. Contact him at william.rhoden@espn.com.