HOUSTON -- For the 10 minutes or so of practice open to the media every day, running back Akeem Hunt makes his presence known.
No, not with his football plays -- though he has impressed Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien with those as well -- but with his dance moves. During the warm-up and stretching portion of practice, Hunt has provided energy, which is something O’Brien has noticed.
“He’s definitely one of those guys that brings a lot of energy and he has a ton of fun playing football, whether it’s out on the practice field or playing in games,” O’Brien said on Monday.
In Sunday’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Hunt ran for 52 yards on eight carries. He also had a third-quarter run for 33 yards that was called back because of a penalty.
“I thought he gave us a spark and that’s what we were looking for,” O’Brien said. “I thought he had earned the right to be on the 53-man roster through his play on the look team, the scout team and on the practice squad. I thought that he came in there and did a nice job for us.”
Hunt, who did not make the Texans' roster out of training camp, chose to sign in Houston and join the practice squad to start the regular season.
“It was just the best choice for me as far as practice squad goes because I actually know the playbook and I know all my teammates," Hunt said. "Everybody just makes me feel like I’m home and I feel like I’m welcome here.”
Hunt was a part of the Texans’ roster last season, playing in eight games, including the playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He had only one game with more than three carries, but he had three games in which he got into the open field and had a long run (plays of 17, 21 and 25 yards).
"He gets around the edge pretty fast," Lamar Miller said. "I think he's doing a good job in the open field being decisive and trying to make a good play."
Added quarterback Brock Osweiler: "Akeem is that guy who has so much bottled-up energy and if you get him the ball, he might be able to spring the big one every single time. He's so athletic and fast and a smart football player."
All season, O’Brien has preached the importance of players who can make a contribution on special teams. He said he liked what he saw from Hunt in that area on Sunday.
“When you look at Hunt [Sunday] on special teams -- forget about offense, that’s pretty obvious how he played on offense because he had the ball in his hand and he made some good plays -- but on special teams he was disruptive, too,” O’Brien said. “He may not have shown up as much in the stats as far as having a tackle, but he was down the field -- him or Don Jones were down there first, first or second, and making the returner, [Arrelious] Benn or whoever the returner was, have to make a first move before they really wanted to.”
Hunt said the praise from O’Brien has made him work even harder this season.
“It feels good to hear that coming from the head coach because he watches everything,” Hunt said. “He watches every rep and to hear him say that makes me want to push even harder to keep hearing him say that stuff."
Last season, Hunt was signed to the active roster after starting running back Arian Foster was put on injured reserve. This year, he was promoted due to injuries to Miller and fellow running backs Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes.
“This is the time of year when those guys are banged up and they need a rest, they need somebody to be able to come in and play for them and help them,” O’Brien said. “That was part of the decision.”
After his big game Sunday, Hunt said he was glad his teammates had noticed his energy and hopes it had affected them.
“I’ve always been the energetic type of guy, even when I was young,” Hunt said. “My mom said I used to run into walls when I was a kid. I just always carried that energetic spirit about myself.
"I just feel like nothing can go wrong if you just stay happy and get everyone around you energetic.”