If you haven’t heard of Kendall Hinton by now, it’s your own fault.
He was the biggest story in sports over the weekend: a practice-squad wide receiver for the Denver Broncos, called up to play starting quarterback against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday after all four of his team’s QBs were exposed to coronavirus.
These were his very first snaps as a pro football player.
If you’ve really been paying attention, you know that last Hinton started at QB in any capacity was for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in 2016, as a sophomore, against the Delaware Blue Hens. An injury in the first quarter of that game knocked him out of the rest of his second season of college ball, and redshirted him for the next year. By the time he came back as a senior, he had been converted to wide receiver, holding down a halfway decent season — four touchdowns and 1,000 yards — but not enough to attract attention in the NFL draft.
The Broncos picked him up in April 2020, then let him go in September. He accepted his slot on the practice squad on Nov. 4, just a few weeks before he would start at quarterback.
Practice squads are full of guys like Hinton — fantastic and versatile athletes who were the best players on their high school teams. Hinton was a state champion as a junior at Southern Durham High School. He was one of the top high school prospects in the state when he committed to Wake Forest in 2014, just ahead of his senior year.
He could have been the next Cam Newton — a relatively soft college career with no major injuries, with enough run-throw-catch skills to add value to any roster. But that’s not the way it works in the NFL.
With enough practice time and an offense built to his strong points, Hinton might have had a more auspicious pro football debut. As it was, he had one day — one day! — to learn a handful of plays before starting against the best team in the NFC. And believe it: He got creamed out there. He went 1 for 9 in passing, his sole 13-yard completion good enough, at least to register a first down. Two interceptions. Seven rushing yards. A 0.1 QB rating.
But man. You’ve got to admire Kendall Hinton, who finally got to shoot his shot under perhaps the worst circumstances in the history of professional football, a hero from the moment he suited up and took the field.