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The Denver Broncos are going to experiment Sunday afternoon with a former high school football star from North Carolina.
After all of their quarterbacks were ruled out for their 4 p.m. game vs. the Saints — one tested positive for COVID-19 and the others had close contact with him — Denver is turning to undrafted rookie Kendall Hinton, who was a star at Southern Durham High.
And Adrian Jones, who coached Hinton in high school, said he won’t miss a second.
“I’ll be glued to the TV,” said Jones, now the head coach at Shaw University in Raleigh. “I’ll put my phone on silent, and no matter what happens, I will watch the whole game.”
Hinton, who is a receiver, has never played an NFL game, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, this will be the first time in 55 years that an NFL team has started a non-QB at that position.
But Hinton has played quarterback before — for Jones.
Before he started two games at quarterback at Wake Forest as a freshman in 2015, and before making the switch to wide receiver, Hinton led Southern Durham, as a QB, to a state championship in 2013. That was his junior year.
As a senior, Hinton’s team was 13-0 and the No. 1 seed in the N.C. 3AA playoffs, before it was upset by No. 12 Chapel Hill in the third round.
Hinton was a four-year starter in high school who threw for nearly 7,000 yards passing and 64 touchdowns in his last two seasons. He also ran for more than 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns in that span.
Recruiting website 247Sports ranked him the No. 29 overall recruit in North Carolina the No. 31 overall pro-style QB prospect in the nation from the Class of 2015.
“He was amazing in high school and I’m not just saying that,” Jones said. “The things he did with the football, man. I remember talking on the sidelines to the coaches going like, ‘How did he do that?’ He was definitely a field general.
“We didn’t have an easy offense and that kid grasped stuff so fast and he’s a natural athlete. For him to go play receiver and learn that position so fast shows you the type of football player he is.”
At Wake Forest, Hinton made two quarterback starts and played in nine games before a battle with mononucleosis ended his 2015 season. He lost his sophomore season to an ankle injury and was a backup in his redshirt sophomore season. As a junior, Hinton moved to receiver and by his senior year, he was good enough to catch 73 passes for 1,001 yards.
He finished his career in Winston-Salem with 1,502 yards passing and eight touchdowns.
Hinton wasn’t selected in this year’s NFL draft and was signed by the Broncos as a free agent. According to published reports, he played well in training camp, but he was waived in September. Out of the league, Hinton was working a sales job before the Broncos re-signed him to the practice squad Nov. 4.
According to NFL Network insider James Palmer, there are some people in the Broncos organization who have still never met Hinton — their starting quarterback.
— NFL GameDay (@NFLGameDay) November 29, 2020
Sunday, Hinton and the Broncos face a Saints team that hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 48 straight games, the fourth-longest streak by any team in at least 70 years.
He’s going to have to do more than hand the ball off.
Jones, his high school coach, said he hasn’t spoken to Hinton this week, but has spoken to his family. He said don’t be surprised if the Broncos have a real shot to win.
“Kendall’s a gamer,” Jones said. “He can really play. I wouldn’t be surprised that if Denver has a good game plan that they have a chance.”