ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Running back Kareem Hunt rushed for 44 touchdowns and almost 5,000 yards in his four collegiate seasons at Toledo. His receiving accomplishments -- 73 catches, one TD -- were far more modest.
But so far at Kansas City Chiefs training camp, the rookie’s receiving skills have stood out every bit as much as his running ability.
Hunt made pass-catching a priority the minute he was drafted by the Chiefs in the third round.
"I definitely was aware that they like to use their running backs in the passing game. ... It’s just exciting to be a part of something like this," Hunt said after a recent practice. "(The Chiefs get) their running backs in space and catching the ball out of the backfield."
The point was hammered home during the offseason program, when Hunt and the Chiefs’ other backs were frequently receiving targets. So Hunt spent most of his five-week break before the start of training camp catching passes.
"I went back (home to Ohio) and trained and had somebody throw the ball at me, even if it was my college QB or one of my old high school buddies or whatever," he said. "I always tried to go out there and (run) routes."
Hunt has displayed the ability not only to catch the ball but also to beat coverage downfield and make spectacular receptions. Two of the Chiefs' most impressive catches at training camp have been supplied by Hunt, who made an over-the-shoulder catch of a deep fade pass and a one-handed grab deep down the sideline.
Hunt said he has always had that kind of receiving ability but didn’t get a chance to put it to frequent use until his senior year at Toledo. Last season he made 41 of those 73 collegiate career catches.
"I definitely feel comfortable with catching the ball out of the backfield," Hunt said. "I’ve been able to catch the ball successfully out of the backfield. I’ve been able to have good eyes on the ball and just (use) judgment and stuff like that. At Toledo I didn’t always get every opportunity to catch those types of passes. But coach (Andy) Reid puts his running backs in great situations to get the ball in the open field."
Hunt will have to prove to the Chiefs that he can handle pass protection before they’re comfortable playing him a lot in passing situations. His best chance to do that will be in the preseason, which for the Chiefs begins Friday night against the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium.
"It’s just your will," Hunt said of the most important component in pass blocking. "You’ve just got to be able to stand in there and hold your own. It’s nothing crazy. You’ve just got to be able to stand in there."