NFL Countdown #24: Kendall Hinton, a rookie practice squad WR, was given fewer
than 48 hours to prepare for a Week 12 matchup against the Saints. He tried his best.
"When I got the call, it was pure excitement. Of course, there was nerves and disbelief… Coming in, I knew I had no idea of what the speed of the game was like. We knew it would be a tough situation, for sure.'' – Kendall Hinton
We have all been watching a game and heard someone say, “even I could do better than that!” I definitely uttered that sentiment pretty much every week whenever Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer had to take over for an injured Aaron Rodgers. Football is a beautiful game where every highlight is the result of countless hours of preparation from athletes who didn’t work their entire lives to have some fat doofus on their couch claiming they could do better. Even practice squad players were all standout players in college, turning a combination of nature and nurture into talent that doesn't exist outside of NFL locker rooms. If aliens landed on our planet, I wouldn’t blame them if they took a look at me and the average NFL player and decided we were different species.
An injury to Drew Brees and a maskless meeting of every quarterback in Denver led to one of the least likely matchups of signal callers in NFL history for Week 12 of the 2020 season. In a season where the Saints played without any runningbacks in Week 17, the Browns without receivers and the Lions without most of their coaching staff in Week 16, Taysom Hill faced off against a rookie practice squad wide receiver in a game that is now immortalized in Canton with Kendall Hinton’s wristband from that fateful day. With less than 48 hours to prepare for his first NFL start at a position he didn’t play anymore, Hinton played about as well as you would expect for a guy who hadn’t thrown a TD pass since 2017. The word “ugly” doesn’t do that game justice; it was a battle of David and Goliath where instead of a slingshot, David was armed with a pool noodle.
Hinton was recruited to play quarterback at Wake Forest University, but never got much playing time with John Wolford – a three-star recruit who had just broken all of Tim Tebow’s high school passing records – on the roster. Hinton flashed at times in college when Wolford was injured, but eventually converted to wide receiver before signing with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2020. His arm talent was never a strong point of his game, but Hinton was able to keep defenses on their toes by being the best athlete on the field at times. When he made the switch to receiver, Hinton put up 1001 receiving yards (8th in the ACC) and four touchdowns over his final college season.
[Data from sports-reference.com]
Kendall Hinton was called upon to play quarterback for the Broncos after all of their QBs were ruled inactive due to a breach of COVID-19 protocols during a small meeting not sanctioned by the NFL. Hinton was called the steal of the century in certain fantasy football circles, as daily fantasy players could start a QB in a WR slot for the minimum salary. Hinton only would have needed a few points to return value, but ended up with negative fantasy points in a game so lopsided that few people actually criticized his performance. He was the first QB to complete more passes to the opposing team than his own players since Ryan Leaf did so in 1998, and the football world thanked him for trying. Kendall Hinton was almost universally commended for his bravery in a matchup where the cards were stacked against him in a way most sports fans have never seen. He fought hard, and gave us further proof that no one – not even former Division-I QBs – could show up on Sunday and outperform an NFL-caliber quarterback.