Did he play QB? Denver Broncos Kendall Hinton more than trivia answer

Broncos' receiver Kendall Hinton had two catches in Pittsburgh, one for a toe-tap first down and the other for his first career touchdown. Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos wide receiver Kendall Hinton recently talked about a trip his grandparents -- Sondria and Cleveland -- made to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in late September. They were in search of a display paying homage to Hinton's day at quarterback last season against the New Orleans Saints.

Hinton said his grandparents finally asked one of the army of volunteers on site for a little help.

"And one conversation led to another and pretty soon it seemed like everybody working there knew they were my grandparents,'' Hinton said. "And next thing they're getting a tour, pictures taken, a totally different experience. And they were just so happy."

Yes, Hinton's somewhat quirky NFL career includes a brief-but-well-publicized stint at quarterback for the Broncos. And those 24 snaps were nothing short of mayhem. With all four of the team's quarterbacks out because of COVID-19 protocol violations on roughly 24 hours notice, Hinton, a former quarterback for some of his career at Wake Forest, played behind center that day.

He went 1-of-9 passing for 13 yards during a 31-3 loss, a moment in NFL history Hinton joked about on Twitter this past summer when he posted, "I'll have to explain to my kids what a negative QBR is someday."

"Quarterback? I was never going to say no to that," Hinton said this week. "I knew the reality of the situation, I knew when I threw my last pass in college [2018 against Clemson], but if you say I'll play anywhere, they need me to play, and I've said that, there wasn't a chance I wasn't going to try to do it."

But a funny thing has happened since Hinton's 15 minutes of fame. He was honest about what he needed to do as a receiver, rolled up his sleeves and got to work. This past Sunday in Pittsburgh he caught his first touchdown pass and made a sideline, toes-down, catch that was as good as any in the league this year.

With the injuries to Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler -- Hamler will miss the remainder of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee -- Hinton has steadily carved out playing time. He's played 74 snaps over four games -- the fourth highest total among the team's wide receivers this season.

"He just keeps improving," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. "... Once OTAs started and I kept seeing steady progress and then, you know, the light came on. He wasn't a receiver in college ... it takes guys time, he can now call himself an NFL wide receiver, not somebody who's ex-quarterback, ex-something, trying to play receiver, he is a receiver."

Hinton agreed with Fangio's assessment. During the team's offseason program in May, Hinton said to himself, "I do belong." He said he got to that point by taking to heart what wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni told him during a sitdown following the 2020 season.

"When I got here in 2020 [as an undrafted rookie], it didn't take very long for me to look around and think, 'I'm nowhere near where I need to be as a receiver,'" Hinton said. "I knew I had to get to work and that there was a lot of it."

Azzanni gave Hinton a list of specific things that needed attention as well as an assortment of footwork drills. When Hinton returned in the spring for the team's first on-field work, the difference was noticeable. And when the Broncos wanted to promote one of several receivers from the practice squad, a group that also included 2020 draft pick Tyrie Cleveland, it was Hinton who got the nod.

"Kendall, man, he's a guy that's just quiet, doesn't say much," Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. "He comes to work every day and does everything we ask of him ... he's a guy who's very selfless ... and he's the type of guy we want on this team."

The Broncos added eight-year veteran John Brown to the practice squad this week and Jeudy is expected back from injured reserve in the coming weeks as well, which means roster decisions will need to be made. Where Hinton stands then will be seen.

Fangio said Wednesday, Brown's speed -- he has two career 1,000-yard seasons, including 2019 with the Buffalo Bills -- has potential in the Broncos' offense if he can navigate through his introduction to the playbook fairly quickly.

For Hinton, those are all things for somebody else to worry about.

"I'm all about doing everything I can to be a receiver, as good of one as I can be," Hinton said. "You never know so be ready for anything."