Five years ago, Chiefs rookie running back Kareem Hunt moved into the dorms at the University of Toledo. Hunt moved back into the dorms once more on Monday, reporting for training camp at Missouri Western State University.
“It felt like I was coming back to college for the first time,” Hunt said after the Chiefs first practice Tuesday morning. “It’s a good feeling. It’s a good time to be here, and we have a great staff. I am just excited.”
The transition from college to the NFL can be difficult for a running back, especially the intricate playbooks and pass protection schemes. But after work in the offseason, Hunt’s teammates are pleased with his progress.
“I am excited about (Hunt),” quarterback Alex Smith said. “The thing I am really pumped about is I really feel like he’s picked up the pass game and the protection.
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“As far as all that stuff when the ball is hands, he looks good in shorts. But we are excited to see what he’ll do once it’s live.”
Hunt, the Chiefs’ third-round pick in the 2017 draft, said the scheme and technique of pass protection is key, but mindset is everything.
“You just have to have the mentality that you’re going to step up and stop this guy and charge him,” Hunt said. “And I have that (mentality). And I think I’ve shown that.”
If he can be a productive blocker during his rookie season, it gives the Chiefs the opportunity to insert him into the lineup much more — especially on third downs. Hunt profiles as a third-down back at the beginning of his career because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield well.
That might help him separate himself from other running backs on the Chiefs roster, including Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West.
“I’ve done a great job taking it play-by-play and trying to catch every pass that comes my way,” Hunt said. “And honestly, they love to use the running backs out of the backfield. This is the most balls I’ve had thrown to me at a camp, so I am enjoying it.”
The learning curve of running routes also can prove difficult for rookies.
“I’ve ran a lot of the routes they’re asking me to do, and there are a lot of new ones, too,” Hunt said. “That goes hand-in-hand, and I am just learning everything and trying to take it day-by-day.”
Hunt said he expects the process to intensify once the pads come on.
“I try to keep the same speed (with pads on) and just play hard,” Hunt said. “I definitely play better with pads on because I have great balance and stay up on my feet.
“I feel like I am better when the pads come on.”
Whether it’s in the pass game, pass protection or carrying the ball, Hunt’s versatility should help him see the field for the Chiefs.
“Kareem is a great runner, and a guy who can really pound the ball inside and bounce it back outside,” rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “At the same time, he can catch the ball. He can do a lot of things from the backfield, and he’ll be an asset for the team.”