FOXBORO, Mass. — If you weren’t familiar with Kareem Hunt heading into Thursday night, you definitely are now.
The Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back was stellar in his debut performance against the New England Patriots, racking up 148 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He also hauled in five receptions for 98 yards with two TDs to help the Chiefs power past the defending Super Bowl champions 42-27.
Hunt made history in his first career NFL regular-season game, as his 246 yards from scrimmage were the most by any player in a debut performance. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid praised the rookie after his record-breaking outing, and also compared him to one of the best running backs he’s ever coached.
“He’s a load,” Reid said of Hunt. “He’s talented and he’s a smart kid, which helps at that position. That’s tough when you have a lot of things to learn and you’re a rookie coming in. I haven’t had a lot of rookies start for me over the years. Brian Westbrook, same thing, they can think on their feet and do those things. That’s what this kid can do.
“He’s a different player than Brian, but he can think on his feet. We’re asking you to run the football, but we’re asking you to pass block, we’re asking you to run routes and you have to know all the blocking schemes up front. He’s spent the time learning how to do that and hats off to him.”
Though Hunt finished the night with eye-popping numbers, he got off to a less-than-ideal start, as he fumbled on his first carry of the game. Kansas City wasn’t afraid to go back to the rookie, though, which ended up paying dividends in a big way. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith praised Hunt for his resiliency and impressive poise for a young player.
“He’s extremely talented,” Smith said. “You have to be ready for it from a physical standpoint. Then you have to be ready mentally. You have to have that ‘it’ about you that the stage isn’t too big. To start on your first carry like that, it would be hard to overcome for a lot of guys. I thought it was awesome, coach coming right back to him. We were going as Kareem was going. He was a big chunk of the offense tonight. For a young guy, we put a lot on him in all facets of the game tonight and he handled it.”
The Chiefs have been fortunate to have productive running backs over the past decade-plus with the likes of Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Jamaal Charles and the currently injured Spencer Ware. And while it’s only one game, it’s hard not to imagine that Hunt could be the next star in Kansas City’s backfield.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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