Kareem Hunt still has something to prove, the Kansas City Chiefs running back coming off one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history.
Hunt remembers it well, recalling that he wasn’t just overlooked in high school but downright disrespected. He didn’t have any offers from what would be considered major programs and none of the recruiting services had him ranked any higher than three stars.
Scout.com graded him as the No. 80 recruit in Ohio and 247Sports.com tabbed him at No. 91. ESPN’s recruiting service didn’t even give him a grade. He received nine offers out of South High School in Willoughby, OH but none of them were from what would be considered a Power 5 program.
He ended up at Toledo, which at the end of the day ended up being a nice fit for Hunt.
“It definitely sticks with me,” Hunt told Metro. “I felt very disrespected. I ran a bunch of hundred-yard [games] in high school and I feel I never got the respect — people kept saying my schedule was very mediocre and I wasn’t playing against enough talent. I kind of got a knock for that. Other people said they didn’t know how fast I was — I played on grass, there were a lot of muddy games.
“It’s forever going to stick with me for as long as I live my life.”
As has been the case throughout his life, being overlooked ended up landing Hunt in a good spot. Through four years at Toledo, Hunt accounted for 5,500 all-purpose yards. And yet because he played in the MAC and for a low-profile program, Hunt was again overlooked in the NFL Draft.
He fell to the Chiefs in the third round of last spring’s NFL draft, again a time and a place that looked suspect. It would seem that Hunt would be buried on the Chiefs depth chart at running back and he’d simply be a change of pace back.
The season before, the Chiefs were paced by Spencer Ware in the backfield, the third-year running back who led them with 921 rushing yards in 14 games. But a knee injury to Ware in preseason shelved the star running back, opening the door for Hunt to make an impact.
And Hunt, bypassed by the major programs and scouting services in high school, overlooked in college, and then taken on Day 2 at the NFL Draft, took the ball and ran with it – literally.
“I got a lot of confidence in myself. I had some confidence – I didn’t know if it’d be right away. I was training to get an opportunity. I just wanted to get on the team and do whatever I could to get on the field first. If it was special teams, whatever they needed me to do. I was just trying to get a spot on the roster,” Hunt said. “Once I got the starting job, why not go for a little bit more?”
Run with it he did, 1,327 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. He’s the first player in NFL history to have three touchdown runs of 50 yards or greater in his first three games. He is now one of nine players to have ever started their NFL career with three straight 100-yard rushing games.
And Hunt, who was a finalist for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year away, isn’t ready to rest on these laurels quite yet.
He said there’s a number he’d love to achieve personally, a single-season rushing total that only seven other running backs have ever reached in the history of the NFL. Hunt, however, said that he’d trade it all in for a shot at something else.
“Over 2,000 yards would be amazing. I’d love to have that in a season,” Hunt said. “That’d be one of my milestones. The biggest thing is getting a Super Bowl now; I don’t care if I run 900 yards in a season if we get a Super Bowl. I’d be fine with that.”
Hunt did not win the Pepsi Rookie of the Year award, losing to fellow running back Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints. It was the second time since 2011 that the award wasn’t given to a quarterback.
Last year, Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys won the Rookie of the Year.