When Kareem Hunt is shredding tacklers and running over linebackers for an extra two yards, he doesn’t look like a rookie.
Hunt plays with a refined aggression that masks his youth, and he’s producing like an established, versatile back squarely in the prime of his career. Hunt has put up at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first seven games, has six total touchdowns and leads the NFL with 1,002 all-purpose yards. In just two months, the third-round pick out of Toledo has established himself as a key offensive cog for a Chiefs team with bona fide Super Bowl ambitions.
Hunt is a seasoned professional on the field, but off it, he’s an exuberant 22-year-old who enjoys playing Call of Duty and meeting his childhood heroes, like Marshawn Lynch. He paused our conversation mid-answer to answer a phone call from his grandmother—priorities firmly in order—and speaks about his rookie season with excitement and, above, all, genuine appreciation for the opportunity he’s been given, even after he fumbled on his first NFL carry.
We caught up with Hunt to discuss his excitement for the new Call of Duty: WWII (due out in November), how his body is handling an NFL workload and the ways his teammates remind him that despite all the success, he’s still a rookie.
Kareem Hunt: Honestly, it was the toughest. I didn’t know if I should stand up or sit down, look at the game or just have somebody tell me what happened. You just have to put all your faith in your defense and scream “PASS!” or “RUN!” Anything to help.
DR: I imagine you grew up watching Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles. How big of a thrill was it to be drafted by an organization with such a rich running back tradition?
KH: It’s very cool to follow those guys. The Chiefs, they really use their running backs, not just running the ball but in the passing game. I knew I was in a great situation when I was taken by Kansas City.
DR: You wear No. 27. Did you talk to Larry Johnson before you selected that number?
KH: I didn’t, but I knew I wasn’t gonna take [Charles’s] No. 25. He’s their all-time leading rusher… I just couldn’t do that.
DR: Would have been a little too soon.
KH: Little too soon?! Way too soon.
DR: When you were drafted, it looked like you were going to share the load with Spencer Ware. Then he tears his knee up in the third preseason game. What’s going through your mind at that point?
KH: I just didn’t want our team to miss a beat. Spencer’s a great guy. I had guys like Charcandrick [West] that stuck with me and taught me those little things that help up. It was tough, but I had to adjust fast.
DR: Alex Smith is having the best season of his career at age 33. What have you seen from him that most impresses you?
KH: He is such a great leader. The whole team is behind Alex. Our defense is behind Alex. He can do it all; he can run, he can throw, he throws a great deep ball. And he has a great deal of confidence right now, and it shows.
DR: Is it harder waking up on Monday after an NFL game than after a game at Toledo?
KH: Definitely—you have to live in the training room. But not having classes is very helpful. You don’t have to walk around campus and be on your feet all day! You can just go in, get in the cold tub, get a massage, do it again. It’s nice.
DR: Do the older guys give you any rookie duties? I don’t want to say hazing, but you always hear about veterans making the rookies do things for them.
KH: Every Friday I have to bring everyone coffee and breakfast, and carry their shoulder pads and helmets into the locker room.
DR: You’re leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage, and you’re still getting coffee?
KH: I’m still a rookie. I have to drive all over the place. Really early.
DR: Who is the player that you’ve met that made you feel like you had to pinch yourself and think, “Damn, I’m really in the NFL?”
KH: Marshawn Lynch. I got to talk to him before the game last week. Always looked up to him. That’s beast mode.
DR: You haven’t put the ball on the ground since you fumbled on your first NFL carry after never fumbling in college. Is this the start of a new streak?
KH: I believe it is. I’m still kinda hot the other streak ended.
DR: Your head must have been spinning.
KH: I didn’t know what to think! It was very, very shocking to me. I’m like, what’s going on? I felt like my career could be coming to an end already!
DR: But they stuck with you, and you ended up with three touchdowns.
KH: That was huge. It showed a lot of trust. A lot of defensive guys were like, “You’re good, relax, we’re about to get this stop for you.” That gave me a big boost of confidence.
DR: Do you still get a chance to play Call of Duty during the season?
KH: I’ve been playing since middle school, always enjoyed relaxing and playing with my friends. I love Madden, too, but I don’t need more football when I’m gaming. I play enough football.
DR: Do a lot of the guys in the Chiefs locker room play?
KH: Oh yeah. I know Charcandrick West and Ron Parker, they always talk about playing. And it’s something I use to keep in touch with my Toledo teammates. We’ll all get really into it when it fully comes out next month.
DR: If you had to form your dream team for COD, who are you taking.
KH: Me, (former Toldeo teammates) Tery Swanson and Mark Remmy. We’re ready.