ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Running back Tom Matte, who was the league's first "emergency" quarterback in the game's modern era, sent a letter to Denver Broncos practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton after Hinton played 24 snaps at quarterback Sunday for the Broncos on less than 24 hours notice.
Matte, who played for the Colts from 1961 to 1972, played three games at quarterback in the 1965 season after both Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo had suffered injuries. Matte had been an All American run-first quarterback at Ohio State, but moved to running back full-time when the Colts, with Unitas, had selected him in the first round of the 1961 draft.
Matte is believed to be the first player to have worn a wristband in an NFL game. He said in the letter to Hinton his wife wrote plays on the wristband to help him remember them.
Matte also played for Don Shula, whose son, Mike, is the Broncos' quarterbacks coach. Shula was the on the Denver sideline and the coach who worked with Hinton between offensive series.
Matte wrote in a two-page letter to Hinton, "Fifty-five years ago I was in your shoes ... and believe me it was an experience I'll never forget."
"As the only two 'Instant Quarterbacks' in NFL history, we have a strong connection, thanks to our shared experience. I'm proud of how you stepped up for your teammates."— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) December 3, 2020
Former Baltimore Colts RB & emergency QB Tom Matte pens letter to @Kendall_Hinton2 » https://t.co/4w0sgGsWOr pic.twitter.com/8KQT3f6pvD
Matte wrote brief accounts of each of his three games behind center and closed the letter with "I'm proud of how you stepped up for your teammates, particularly in what was an impossible situation in difficult circumstances. Decades from now, I hope you'll look back with pride on your experience -- you'll have quite a story to tell your grandchildren!"
Hinton, who Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said was playing as a scout team defensive back in Saturday's practice, was forced into action when Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles, who is on the team's practice squad, were all pulled off the practice field Saturday and then ruled out of Sunday's game due to COVID-19 protocols.
It was indeed "an impossible situation" as Matte wrote to Hinton, who completed 1 of 9 passes for 13 yards. The Broncos had 112 yards worth of offense in a 31-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Hinton's first pass attempt of that game was his first since 2018 when he was at Wake Forest.