The laundry list of accomplishments tallied by Kansas City Chiefs’ tailback Kareem Hunt over the course of his rookie campaign is long and well-documented.
The 22-year-old amassed more yards from scrimmage in his professional debut than any player in NFL history, landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated a few weeks later and finished the season as just the sixth rookie in league history to earn the rushing title.
It was a remarkable season for any player – let alone a rookie – and now with Training Camp on the horizon, Hunt is focused on becoming an even more versatile offensive playmaker as he follows up his memorable 2017 campaign.
“I’m just working on my game all around. I’ve been catching the ball more and running a lot more routes,” said Hunt during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) back in May. “I definitely like that part, it gives me the opportunity to get the ball in open space and make people miss.”
The prospect of Hunt becoming an even bigger part of Kansas City’s passing game is exciting considering his success catching the ball as a rookie. In fact, Hunt was one of just four tailbacks last season to tally at least 1,000 yards on the ground and 450 or more yards through the air, joining the Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell, the Rams’ Todd Gurley and the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon.
Furthermore, Hunt was just the sixth rookie in NFL history to reach those benchmarks, and the first since Doug Martin in 2012.
The individual tasked with getting Hunt the ball this season, second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, is another point of excitement for the young tailback. The two players were members of the same draft class and are separated by just over a month in age.
“Patrick and I have a great bond,” Hunt said during OTAs. “I feel like he’s going to do great. He has definitely already [taken on] that leader role and he’s able to go out there and make big plays. I’m excited to see him get out there.”
As impressive as all the stats and numbers may be, Hunt’s ultimate goal for this season is simple enough.
“Definitely just getting a ring,” Hunt said back in May. “We came up short in the playoffs and I’m just trying to go out there and do whatever I can to get better to help the team get past that.”
Two Storylines to Follow for Hunt at Camp:
How does he follow up such a strong rookie season? Hunt’s greatest challenge heading into the 2018 campaign will be following the record-breaking performance he put together as a rookie, and that all begins on the practice fields in St. Joseph. History is on his side, interestingly enough, as three of the five previous players to lead the NFL in rushing as rookies – Edgerrin James, Eric Dickerson and Earl Campbell – went on to defend their rushing crown the following year.
How is he incorporated in the passing game? It will be interesting to watch how much Hunt develops as a receiver this season after excelling at catching the ball in 2017. If he can continue to hone that part of his game, the Chiefs’ offense will only become that much more explosive.