When undeveloped rookie Kendall Hinton kicks off his unlikely NFL debut against the Saints on Sunday, count his high school coach as someone betting on the Broncos’ emergency quarterback.
After all, Hinton spent the entire season of his football career playing quarterback. He played for the position at Southern Durham (NC) High School while leading the Spartans to the school’s first state championship as a junior.
“He’s prepared for this moment,” said Southern Durham head coach Darius Robinson. “He just has to get used to the speed of the game, and once he gets used to the speed of the game, he starts playing.
“It’s normal for everyone to say, ‘Who is this man?’ But those of us who know him know that the Denver Broncos saw the same thing we did to be able to say, “Hey, we’re going to bring someone from the practice roster as our starting quarterback.” I’m here to tell everyone to get your popcorn and soda and enjoy what we’ve already seen in Kendall. ”
In that North Carolina Class 3AA title game in 2013, Hinton rallied his team from a 21-point deficit in the first half with a series of dazzling throws. South Durham eventually won 38-31, capped by Hinton’s 80-yard touchdown pass with 57 seconds to go.
“Everyone panicked on our side in that first half,” Robinson recalls. “We looked out over the field and needed Kendall to get the attack going. He gave us that look, motioned for us to calm down, and put together a 60-meter ride to give us a touchdown that went halfway. Then he came back in the second half and threw consecutive touchdowns to put us ahead. That told us then and there that the young man does not fold under pressure. “
Hinton was recruited to Wake Forest as a quarterback, where he started two of the nine games he played as a true freshman, throwing for 929 yards and four touchdowns. An ankle injury took him his sophomore year, and after losing the starting job as a quarterback, Hinton switched to a full-time job ahead of his final college season.
“He had solid numbers – 73 catches for over 1,000 yards – and that was only a year on the position,” said Robinson. “That should let you know that he can really play at that level, and why he was hanging around in Denver like a wideout.”
After leaving the field, Hinton signed with the Broncos on April 26. He was disbanded after training camp and returned to the practice team on November 4.
Called up from the exhibition squad to the active roster Sunday, Hinton starts as quarterback against the Saints at Empower Field after Denver’s four roster quarterbacks (Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, Blake Bortles and Jeff Driskel) were sidelined by COVID-19, the first three Declared ineligible by the NFL due to concerns about contact tracking after Driskel’s positive test.
Hinton, 23, is poised to write himself in the record books as the NFL’s first starting non-quarterback in the position since December 18, 1965, when Baltimore, receding Tom Matte, started as quarterback for the Colts in a 20-17 win on the Rams.