The Maxwell Award has annually gone to America’s College Player of the Year since 1937. On Tuesday, Toledo's Kareem Hunt was named to the preseason Maxwell Award watch list as one of the top players in the entire country. Hunt, a two-time All-MAC selection, had a breakout season in 2014 after rushing for 1,631 yards and ranking second in the entire nation with 7.96 yards per carry. He would cap off his sophomore campaign with 271 yards and five touchdowns in the GoDaddy Bowl which resulted in a 63-44 win over Arkansas State.
In 2015, Hunt would battle injury but still provided glimpses of the 2014 version of himself as he would rush for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns in just nine games, averaging well over 100 yards per contest when healthy.
This season, as a senior, Hunt will be heavily leaned on as a leader both on and off of the field. First year head coach, Jason Candle says this honor is definitely something Hunt has earned.
“First of all, it’s a tremendous honor to have your name mentioned among the best players in the country,” Coach Candle told us on Wednesday, “Kareem has earned that right. It’ll be interesting to see how he takes off and runs with it.”
The Toledo program has been in the national spotlight several times over the past few seasons. In 2014, a stellar offensive season and a blowout victory in the GoDaddy Bowl behind Hunt’s efforts. In 2015, the Rockets garnished attention for their upset victory over Arkansas on the road and just weeks later, a Top 25 ranking.
Coach Candle says the attention is great, but it’s not something he’s extremely focused on.
“Any time you get national attention it’s great for the program and great for the city,” Candle continued. “But we have a lot of things to work on as a team but we aren’t going to hang our hat on preseason accolades.”
Hunt, who has now rushed for over 3,400 yards in his three seasons as a Rocket, says the national attention means a lot for him and his community.
"Honestly it just means I have a chance to be one of the best players in all of College Football and that means a lot to me, hopefully I can make a run at something," Hunt told us. "This means a lot to the community, both for Willoughby and Toledo, I know everyone is watching me and they look up to me back home. For the community in Toledo, I know they want the best for me and they're excited."
As for goals for the season, both individual and as a team, Hunt says he just wants to help out.
"I definitely want to win the MAC Championship and go to a New Year bowl game or something similar," Hunt stated on the team goals, "Then for myself, I want to rush for at least get 1,500 yards and just help contribute as much as possible to help bring this MAC Championship back to Toledo," Hunt added.
Semifinalists will be announced on Oct. 31 with three finalists being announced on Nov. 21. The winner will be named on Dec. 8 as all of the Glass City keeps their eyes on No. 3 this season.
The Rockets will kickoff the 2016 campaign on Friday, Sept. 2 at Arkansas State in what will be a nationally televised game on ESPNU.