Kareem Hunt: From Toledo Rocket to Arrowhead Pride

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65 Toss Power Trap – the play that cemented Super Bowl IV for the Kansas City Chiefs may be the most memorable plays in Kansas City Chiefs history. And what is more remarkable, it would be a play that unknowingly would foreshadow the future of how the Chiefs would succeed. From Mike Garrett punching in Hank Stram’s famous call from the five yard line, to Christian Okoye, Priest Holmes, and most recently Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs have been a team thriving on power in the running game to win. As some legends stay true forever, the Chiefs success is synonymous with the running game – and they will attempt to find this power again in Kareem Hunt.

Kareem Hunt: From Toledo Rocket to Arrowhead Pride

It was no surprise when Andy Reid and John Dorsey chose to bring in a powerful, hard-working back of the future in Hunt. A former Toledo Rocket stand out, Hunt was highly productive at a lesser known school. Hunt is used to striving above expectations, but whether he consciously recognizes it or not, Hunt has big shoes to fill – and Chiefs fans should be excited to watch him grow in the NFL.

Hunt’s story starts as a kid in Ohio, a Cleveland Browns fan that was enamored with playing and winning at football. He knew that it would take hard work to make the NFL since the third grade. In an interview with ‘The News Herald’ reporter Mark Podolski, Hunt stated, “I’ve always dreamed of playing in the NFL, and when I told people that when I was growing up, they didn’t believe me. But it… now it’s almost here.” It is this level of dedication that has permeated every successful running back for the Chiefs – a dedication to the fundamental details of football.

Hunt grew into his 5’11” body in high school, maxing out at 205 pounds during his senior year. A beast in the weight room, Hunt embodied the holistic football player of middle America, excelling in three different sports. His two consecutive 2,500-yard seasons at Willoughby South landed Hunt on the All-Ohio State team, and offers from Pitt, Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Ohio, and Toledo. In a decision that seemed destined, Hunt chose to join the Toledo Rockets to display his rocket footwork at the collegiate level.

Hunt’s introduction to Toledo came with the shock of a collegiate work level – no longer was he the dominant man in the weight room. He was mere competition for linebackers in games of tug-a-war. The focus had to shift to making every day count with incremental improvement. Even though Toledo coaches describe Willoughby High School as a collegiate-style offense, college takes another level of dedication.

The commitment to grind through every day and get better is the most notable characteristic that Hunt impersonates. It is what got him a chance to play in 2013 as Coach Matt Campbell stated “I think he really prepared himself through the early part of the season so that if that ever happened, he would be the ‘guy’.” After adapting to this methodology in the 2013 season, Hunt evolved his game in 2014 and added on the ability punch the ball in a power formation, sweep out and use his athleticism, or combine both power and finesse in the open field. Hunt was well on his way to becoming one of Toledo’s best, finishing 2014 and turning 2015 running attempts into 1,631 yards and 16 touchdowns.

As most players go through, however, adversity struck Hunt in early 2015 and would challenge who he was a man and a player. Coach Matt Campbell had to suspend his all-star running back for the first two games of the season for violating team rules. Although he never specified what rules Hunt and teammate Allen Covington (defensive end) broke, Hunt needed to own up to his mistakes. And he did. Hunt’s name and ‘poor character’ would not be put in the same sentence again.

His fortitude in the weight room was challenged in his return to the field against Iowa State on September 19, 2015. After carrying the ball 24 times for 129 yards, the Toledo Rockets were in the last moments of double overtime, marching closer to the end zone on every play. Hunt had to have known in the back of the mind this game could come down to his running effort – the recollection to be prepared for every opportunity. Alas, it was on the second to last play that Hunt pulled his hamstring and had to leave the field limping. His backup, Damion Jones-Moore, would scurry in for a ten-yard touchdown, stating after the game he was prepared to take the opportunity – a quote that came out of Hunt’s verbiage as a leader.

Hunt put in the work to get back for week five against Kent State, rushing 16 times for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Due to his volume limitations, Hunt finished 2015 with 178 rushes for 973 yards and ten touchdowns. 37 yards from being a 1,000 yard back, Hunt was determined to excel in 2016.

That year, Hunt showed that he had a fire in his heart to reinstitute his prolific play. He hit 1,475 yards on 262 carries, making ten of those touchdowns. He also stepped up in the receiving game – a factor of his career that had been lacking – to catch 41 passes for 403 yards. Capping off his career in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, he rushed for 271 yards and five touchdowns.

Finally, on April 28th, the Kansas City Chiefs made Kareem Hunt’s dream comes true as he was selected 86th overall in the NFL Draft. The running back who would improve his game every year now had a chance to improve his game at the professional level, and at rookie mini-camp Hunt’s comments gave us insight into his own introspection.

I feel like my offense didn’t really utilize me in the passing game early on in my career,” Hunt noted. “I started working hard and doing seven-on-seven and summer workouts and winning my one-on-one battles, the routes and stuff like that. My coach was, like, ‘Yeah, we’ve got to utilize you more out of the backfield and get you in space.’

And his dream for the Chiefs?

“I just want to be a guy who can be able to do it all,” he emphasized. “I don’t want to come off the field if I don’t have to.”

Kareem Hunt’s personality is a perfect fit for the Chiefs. He is a dedicated, versatile running back that will look to improve his game every year. But in the beginning, he is in the shadows of all-time running backs. His work ethic is going to have to double, his commitment become a profession, and his style unbreakable. It takes a lot to become a Chiefs running back, but it is that personality that pushed Reid to turn Hunt into one.
Cheer for him early and often because this is going to be a special ride.

Tune in early next week for part two of this article as I break down Kareem Hunt in the film room.