The diversity in Kareem Hunt’s expertise lured the Chiefs into drafting the Toledo running back in late April.
Weeks later, after his first days in a Chiefs practice uniform, he drew praise from running backs coach Eric Bieniemy for his rushing prowess and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Quarterback Alex Smith focused instead on Hunt’s pass protection.
Hunt was relatively quiet in all of those areas in his preseason debut in Friday’s 27-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
But the game-changing plays arrived on special teams. Even if only one of them actually counted.
Let’s start there: Hunt picked up the loose change on Kevin Pierre-Louis’ blocked punt in the third quarter, and he carried it inside the 10-yard line, setting up the Chiefs’ only second-half touchdown.
“I got a knack for the ball,” he said. “I just want to make plays.”
Hunt, the Chiefs’ third-round choice in April, was lined up on the outside of the formation, but he quickly spotted the kick had been blocked and rushed after the ball. In the cluster of bodies diving to the ground to recover it, Hunt sprinted between them and scooped it up, then carried it another 12 yards to set the Chiefs up at the 8-yard line.
Four plays later, Chiefs rookie Patrick Mahomes followed with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Kemp.
“I was just looking for the ball to see if it was kicked,” Hunt said. “I saw a couple of guys scrapping for it, so I had to get there and hustle and make a play.”
The special teams play that didn’t officially count: Hunt blasted 49ers return man DeAndre Carter shortly after he hauled in a punt. The tackle was negated by offsetting penalties. Hunt credited his time as a defender in high school for the tackling ability.
Those were the bright spots of his debut.
His time on offense was relatively quiet. Hunt, who broke Toledo’s all-time rushing record in college, received just one carry Friday, which went for no gain. He caught one pass for nine yards.
“Honestly, just first of all, (it was) a dream come true to be able to get back out on the field and play the sport that I love and get some of the jitters out a little bit,” Hunt said.