After successfully switching from quarterback to wide receiver during his senior season at Wake Forest, Kendall Hinton thought he was done playing under center — and he was OK with that.
But in 2020, all bets are off.
When the Denver Broncos had all four of their quarterbacks placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list in a matter of hours on Saturday evening, Hinton received an unprecedented promotion — from practice-squad receiver to starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
“I can easily say it’s been the most eventful 24 hours of my life,” said Hinton, who played wide receiver in the 2020 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. “When I got the call, it was pure excitement. Of course there was nerves and disbelief, but the encouragement the team gave me…made it a lot easier for me.”
The build-up to Hinton becoming the first non-quarterback to start an NFL game at the position since 1965 was also eventful.
— The Collegiate Bowl (@NFLPABowl) November 29, 2020
After turning heads during the Collegiate Bowl in January and signing with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in April, Hinton was part of the team’s final roster cuts just before the season in September. To pay the bills, Hinton worked in sports marketing and fundraising before the Broncos came calling again on Nov. 4 with a spot on the practice squad.
Every day thereafter, including Saturday, Hinton served as scout-team receiver and on special teams. With no time to practice following his emergency call-up to quarterback, the Demon Deacons alum crammed what he estimated as “one-tenth” or “about 20 to 30 plays” of the playbook in the short window leading up to Sunday. His first simulated passes came about an hour before kickoff.
Following four run plays to start the game, Hinton took over at quarterback for a third-and-3 situation. Even though his first pass fell incomplete; even though he completed just one of nine pass attempts for 13 yards to go with two interceptions; and even though this Hollywood script did not end in victory for Hinton and the Broncos — they fell 31-3 to the Saints — what the 23-year-old did gain was the respect of many across the league for navigating this impossible situation.
“I would not say this was how I had it planned out in my dreams. It usually doesn’t work out how you want it. So just getting this opportunity and this experience was amazing.” Hinton said to reporters afterward. “I honestly don’t feel like I played to the best of my ability. Of course, a day or two of practice could’ve helped.”
What a weekend! Appreciate all the support 🤞🏾 #BroncosCountry
— Kendall Hinton (@Kendall_Hinton2) November 30, 2020
— Demario Davis #56 (@demario__davis) November 30, 2020
Helluva situation to be in… No shade at all… RESPECT breh https://t.co/n4HUg4wQu9
— cameron jordan (@camjordan94) November 30, 2020
Mad respect & props 4 @Kendall_Hinton2… I don’t care stats or score, this young man did nothing but battle w/ the crappy hand he was dealt! Have heart & courage like that – in the world of haters – he deserves more shots to get on field doing what he does best! #TakeHimOnMyTeam
— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) November 29, 2020