It was a tough season for Ryan Hunter in 2018 as the offensive lineman watched from the sidelines as his Kansas City Chiefs nearly made it to the Super Bowl.
The 23-year-old North Bay native spent the season on the practice squad last year. He hopes that changes this season.
“Obviously when you are not playing or not dressing you always feel like you could have helped the team in some way, you just kind of feel helpless in that fact that there is nothing you can do to help,” said Hunter in a phone interview Thursday with BayToday.
“That game against the Patriots really stung a lot even for me and I never played a down in the regular season but every loss we had - I felt every win we had and I just kind of use that as a motivator and just try to continue to get better every day.”
Hunter and the Chiefs are preparing to open the NFL pre-season on Saturday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Back in February, Hunter did get a boost of confidence by signing with the Chiefs which gave him a sense of security and allowed him to focus on the NFL.
“Definitely getting signed right after the season back to the roster was obviously a positive thing. It shows that the team and the organization believe I have a chance to play in the NFL, more specifically for the Chiefs so having them reiterate that vocally and by the contract obviously gave me some confidence,” noted Hunter.
But that signing does not guarantee Hunter a spot on the Chiefs roster for the upcoming season.
“I have been slotting in at the two’s and three’s at centre and guard so I am just trying to fit in wherever they need me and do whatever I can to show the front office that I deserve a spot on the team,” said Hunter.
“Realistically there are a lot of spots that are taken up for starters but that does not mean if one or two guys go down that I can’t be the next guy to go in on the field so I am just trying to do what I can to show these coaches that I deserve a spot.
“But if things don’t work out in Kansas City I still will need to play very well in the preseason to show the other 31 teams that I can be an asset to them. But obviously for now just really focusing in on doing what I can to help the Chiefs and stay here in Kansas City.”
Hunter has also enjoyed working with rising star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who threw 50 touchdown strikes last season.
“At practice, I do a lot of centre quarterback exchanges and I am always there with the quarterbacks,” said Hunter.
“Pat is a really great guy, very down to earth. Really since he took a step forward as a starter with this team he has become a leader of this team and it is even more evident this year with the year he had last year. He is harder on himself than anybody else. Coach Reid is pretty tough on him so to have him in the huddle calling plays, I could not be happier with the quarterback that we have so to be able to watch him do some things that no one else is able to do is pretty fun to be around.”
The experience from last year has allowed Hunter to just focus on football and not the hype that comes with attending an NFL training camp for the first time.
“That first year you are kind of feeling your way around the environment trying to get to know the coaches and the systems and how things work in your second year,” he said.
He hopes that experience, along with hard work, will help him rise up the Chiefs depth chart, as he hopes to move off the practice squad and onto the regular season one.