KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Not long after he was drafted in the third round this year by the Kansas City Chiefs, Kareem Hunt got a crash course from some friends on the rich history at running back for his new team.
Starting with the arrival of Priest Holmes as a free agent in 2001, the Chiefs had a consistent line of top backs, continuing with Larry Johnson and then Jamaal Charles.
Each had something different going for him. Holmes had the great vision and patience, Johnson the power and ability to break tackles, Charles the moves and the speed.
But each spent at least a couple of seasons at or near the top of the list of the NFL’s premier running backs. Charles, Holmes and Johnson are in order, first, second and third on the Chiefs’ all-time rushing yardage list.
“The Chiefs always produce great running backs,” Hunt said. “That seems like what everybody knows the Chiefs for.”
Almost halfway through his rookie season, Hunt is carrying on the tradition. He was the NFL’s leading rusher heading into Week 8, where the Chiefs will face the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on Monday night (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
An added bonus: Hunt and Charles will square off. Charles signed with the Broncos after being released by the Chiefs in February.
Holmes played with the Chiefs from 2001 through 2007. He’s second on the Chiefs’ all-time rushing list with 6,070 yards. He led the NFL in rushing in 2001 with 1,555 yards. He led the NFL in touchdowns in 2002 (24) and 2003 (27). Holmes also was an accomplished pass-catcher, who led the Chiefs in receptions in 2002 (70) and 2003 (74).
Here’s what the others had to say about Holmes:
Johnson: “I wished I trusted my vision more and had the patience for plays that Priest did. I was amazed at what he saw and how he believed in it. I always second-guessed myself. I didn’t trust the plays all the time. That’s what I loved about Priest. He would run those stretch plays all the way to the sideline and still run 20 or 30 yards. Me? If I can’t see a crease, I’m cutting and heading upfield. He trusted the process a lot more. He trusted the blocking.”
Charles: “He was a tough guy, a tough guy from [the University of Texas, where Charles later played]. He’d get the ball, and he was kind of tough with it.”
Hunt: “A tough, hard-nosed player. I know he was one of the greatest backs to ever play. Honestly, I can’t believe I’m being compared to him because he was a great player and he’s a good person.”
Johnson played with the Chiefs from 2003 through 2009. He had the two best rushing seasons in Chiefs history with 1,789 yards in 2006 and 1,750 yards in 2005.
Here’s what the others had to say about Johnson:
Holmes: “He ran angry. There were several things he was going through off the field, like his [sometimes contentious] relationship with Coach [Dick] Vermeil that made him an angry runner. That was something that made him a great runner. He used that rage as motivation. It pushed him to excel. Most players couldn’t do that. They would get distracted and allow that anger to get them off their game. I like how he was able to do that.”
Charles: “Larry was a strong running back coming out of Penn State.”
Hunt: “When I picked [uniform number] 27, I picked it because of him. He had a lot of success wearing that number, and I hope I can be the same kind of player that he was, do some of the same things he was able to do.”
Charles played for the Chiefs from 2008 through 2016. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in every season from 2009 through 2014 with the exception of 2011, when he tore his ACL. His per-carry average of 5.4 yards is the highest among any NFL running back since 1955.
Here’s what the others had to say about Charles:
Holmes: “He was a different breed of running back. To have that dominating speed, that separated him from the average back. He also wanted to be great. He wanted it badly, and he showed how badly he wanted it coming back from a knee injury, not once, but twice.”
Johnson: “Jamaal was fast. Todd Haley tried to get me to lose all this weight, and I still wasn’t as fast as Jamaal. To be able to turn the corner like he did, I envied players who could turn a corner and not even seem like they were moving fast. Everything about me looked like I was trying way too hard. I loved the fact Jamaal could cut on a dime and be gone with that burst of speed. I had one gear. Jamaal had four or five.”
Hunt: “That’s the all-time leading rusher in Kansas City Chiefs history. You can’t coach some of the stuff that Jamaal does, that unbelievable speed. I watch a lot of film on him because he was able to use that speed to make so many big plays.”
Hunt is the only player in NFL history to collect at least 100 yards from scrimmage in his first seven games. He has three runs of at least 50 yards and three pass receptions of at least 25 yards.
Here’s what the others had to say about Hunt:
Holmes: “One of the things that stands out the most was his ability to go through four years [in college] at Toledo and not record a fumble. That’s a feat every running back wishes to accomplish, and it was one he was able to do. That’s remarkable. The attention to detail, the sense of awareness you have to have on every play is incredible. There are times a helmet comes out of nowhere or an arm reaches in unexpectedly, and that leads to a fumble. That’s an impressive thing.”
Johnson: “Nothing can really knock him off his feet. You can never hit him low enough. You’d literally have to dive at his feet or his ankles to actually get him. With him, you know you’re going to get a low center of gravity, a low pad level, and you almost have to hit his helmet or his shoulder pads before you even get a chance to hit his legs. He runs so hard, you’re going to get a ball of fire when you try to tackle him.”
Charles: “I’m happy for the guy. I wish the guy breaks all my records. Records are meant to be broken. … He’s doing the same thing I was doing when I was there. His game is pretty good. He’s a strong running back. He’s got good hands. He’s got good vision. He’s an all-around running back, and that’s what you need these days in Coach Andy Reid’s offense. He puts him in great situations.”