CLEVELAND – Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt and teammate Travis Kelce had played in plenty of big games in their football careers, and likely have many more, but it will be hard to top the homecoming they celebrated together in their teams' 37-21 win against the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday.
“It's a stadium I used to drive by every day almost,” said Hunt, a native of the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby, Ohio. “To see it just up there and now actually getting to play on the field in the NFL is really an honor.”
Kelce grew up in another nearby suburb in Cleveland Heights, a hometown he says he “loves “to death.”
“I'm nonstop always thinking of my family back home,” Kelce said. “The friends that helped me become who I am today. And sure enough it was a little bit easier to think of them today knowing that a lot of them were in the fans, a lot of them were yelling at me 'Cleveland Heights' in the crowd.”
The game turned into a big homecoming celebration for both. Hunt totaled 141 yards of offense with three touchdowns, while Kelce contributed 99 yards receiving with two scores of his own.
“I think only Cleveland people scored today,” Hunt said. “That's a good thing.”
Kelce said it reflects on the type of football in this part of the country.
“That just tells you the type of special place that lies here in Northeast Ohio,” Kelce said. “It's dear to my heart, man, I love it to death.”
Hunt scored his first touchdown on a 50-yard screen pass, a winding run that sent him to a corner of the end zone with a pocket of Chiefs fans. He raced to the stands and had a kid in a Chiefs jersey the ball.
“It's my hometown so I wanted to leave something back with them,” Hunt said. “I wanted to leave a football so I just found a kid who will really appreciate that football I felt like I did.”
Following his third touchdown, Hunt couldn't decide to whom to give the ball, so he tossed it in the stands. A Browns fan caught it and tossed it back on the field.
“It's all good. If they don't want the football, I'll take it,” Hunt said.
Hunt had a crowd of more than 200 family members, friends and acquaintances from his alma mater Willoughby South High School on hand. He and his mother gave away about 100 tickets to members of the school's football this week.
“It's really a dream come true that I'm able to do something like that for the high school and for the program, for the coaches,” Hunt said. “I just really want to go out there and win this game because it means more to me this game than a lot of the other ones.”
It almost means something to Hunt that he and Kelce didn't come to the NFL as hot shot recruits and blue blood college programs. Hunt was a three-star recruit at Toledo, while Kelce earned two stars as a Cincinnati commitment. Hunt says it means good football players can come from anywhere.
“We played good football around,” Hunt said. “You can't just always look at the big time schools of the big time recruits. I was a three-star recruit and those teams believed in me and were able to give me my opportunity. Me, I'm just trying to take advantage of every opportunity even right now.