When Denver Broncos wide receiver Kendall Hinton looks back at his NFL career, it will read very much like a Hollywood script. Of course, the locations would vary, and while it may well begin where he grew up in Durham, North Carolina, it's a given to end up in Canton, Ohio, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Hinton had a fateful and destiny-changing Sunday back in November 2020, when after giving up playing quarterback in college at Wake Forest, he bizarrely found himself making an astonishing Week 12 start under center.
Brutal COVID-19 protocols had dictated that all four of Denver’s QB options would be ruled out, and they had finally run out of road. Hinton stepped up valiantly; he attempted nine passes in total, and completed just one, in what quickly became a lost cause against the New Orleans Saints.
Subsequently, however, a display of Hinton’s game-worn equipment can be viewed through a glass case in Canton. By making a feature attraction out of the bizarre circumstances under which Hinton made his professional QB debut, it most certainly puts an entirely new spin on what was a very messy situation at the time.
Hinton might have been content with his hard-earned 15 minutes of fame, but that's not really what he wants out of his career in the long run. Re-committing himself to becoming a genuine NFL-caliber receiver is his real burning objective. Last season, he continued his mission by appearing in 16 games and posting 15 catches for 175 yards, with his only touchdown grab coming in Week 5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Those stats might not stand out much, but they provide encouraging signs, especially if Hinton continues his upward trajectory. But, on a Broncos team that is loaded with premium receiving talent, the first real port of call is cracking the 53-man roster once again, and coping with all the inherent vagaries that are involved in doing so.
“That’s something that you can’t control,” Hinton recently said, via The Athletic. “That’s something I dealt with my rookie year, coming in and saying, ‘Am I going to last?’ but at the end of the day, you don’t control that. You just come out here every day and give your best, put in the work during the offseason and show what you can do. That’s all you can do.”
Motivation doesn't appear to be any kind of issue for the 25-year-old, though if any were needed, then playing on the same team as his childhood hero, quarterback Russell Wilson, should provide it.
“I idolized Russ coming up,” Hinton revealed. “That was my position. I was a quarterback, 5- foot-10. He went to N.C State, and I was from Durham, 15 minutes away. So that was somebody I always followed coming up. So this is pretty unreal."
Former Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders famously said after he joined the Peyton Manning-led juggernaut how he landed in "Wide Receiver Heaven." For Hinton, that statement certainly rings true as he lives out his real-life football fairy tale.
“There are still days,” said Hinton, "where I come out here and I’m like, ‘Yo, I get to play with Russell Wilson!”