CLEVELAND — Once he found the courage, Kareem Hunt watched the infamous video of him shoving a woman and then kicking her while she was on the ground.
Like millions of others, he was disturbed.
“I was like, ‘Wow, it’s pretty bad. That’s not me,’” he said, recalling his reaction. “I didn’t really watch the video for a long, long time.”
Hunt swears he’s since changed.
Given a second chance by his hometown team and the NFL, Hunt spoke Wednesday for the first time since being signed in February by the Browns, who are hoping the 23-year-old has learned from his mistakes and can outrun his violent past.
It’s been an embarrassing and humbling five months for Hunt, released in December by Kansas City just days after a surveillance video showed him physically abusing a woman during an argument in a Cleveland hotel hallway in February 2018. He wasn’t forthcoming to the Chiefs about what transpired and paid the price.
But Browns general manager John Dorsey, who drafted him in 2017 while GM with the Chiefs, decided Hunt deserved a shot at redemption.
Hunt said he’s determined to make the most of it.
“I’m just taking it very seriously,” he said. “Like day by day, I’m just making the best decisions at the time and place. And doing everything I can and prevent something like that from happening again.”
Hunt said he’s promised Dorsey his violent days are over.
“I told him, ‘You can trust me.’ I’ve got to earn his trust, and I’ve got to earn everybody’s trust in the whole organization,” he said. “I’m not willing to mess that up.”
Hunt must serve an eight-game league suspension for “physical altercations” before he can play. For now, he’s allowed to practice with his teammates during the Browns’ offseason training activities, and his time on the field is providing a sanctuary and a place to begin making amends.
While he’s remorseful about his past, Hunt knows only his actions going forward will help him earn back trust.
He’s keeping a close circle of friends and working in the community by speaking to high school students about making smarter decisions.
“It’s very meaningful for them and for me,” he said, “just knowing that I can help them, and talk to these kids about just life. A lot of them have dreams to play football and stuff like that, too, and just giving them positive lift-up. Just always believing in themselves.”
Hunt said part of his motivation for speaking was because he didn’t have the same opportunity.
“I didn’t really have anybody come talk to me when I was in high school,” he said. “Somebody to look up to and explain that, ‘You know, nobody’s perfect and you gotta learn from your mistakes and don’t make the same mistakes.’”
Hunt has been undergoing weekly counseling to help control his behavior. He denied being treated for an alcohol dependency.
“Not so much alcohol, but it was just in there a little bit,” he said. “I pretty much just focused on making myself the better person and talking to them about how to control my anger. I’m not an angry person at all, definitely not. I just felt like I had to make better decisions. I want to talk about ways to make better decisions in certain situations I’m put in.”
Hunt has not reached out to the victim in the video. If he did, he would ask for her forgiveness.
“If I was to see her, I would apologize to her face,” he said. “But I have not had the chance to do that. I don’t know any ways of contacting her.”
As for the Chiefs, who felt betrayed by his dishonesty, Hunt insists he told them what he could before the video showed a different story.
“I know I’m not going to mess this up again,” he said. “And the Chiefs, I didn’t really lie. I just told them what I knew at the time, and when the video came out, it was me seeing it too for the first time again, it was so long ago. They felt like I lied to them. That’s all right.”
Hunt said a renewed Christian faith has helped him get through this period of his life. He plans to be baptized Sunday.
“I’m looking forward, so I can feel reborn,” he said.