Nyheim Hines was just as shocked as the New York Jets' defense to see Danny Pinter end up with the football in the end zone midway through the third quarter of Thursday night's Week 9 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
On 1st and Goal from the 2-yard line, Pinter, who has typically played the role of an extra offensive linemen for the Indianapolis Colts' "big" package his first couple seasons in the NFL, reported as usual as an eligible receiver before assuming his spot on the left end of the line.
Quarterback Carson Wentz took the snap out of the shotgun formation and faked the handoff to running back Jonathan Taylor. Pinter, who initially was tasked with blocking defensive lineman Shaq Lawson on the play, then leaked out to the left side of the end zone, where he was left all alone by the Jets' defense.
Wentz, who initially scanned the field to his right, looked to his left to see big No. 63 wide open and yelling for the ball. The quarterback's throw was a little low, but Pinter — the college tight end-turned-NFL offensive lineman — was able to go to his knees and use his body to haul in the pass for his first-career touchdown reception, giving the Colts a 35-10 lead in their eventual 45-30 victory.
According to StatsPass, Pinter is the third offensive lineman in Colts franchise history to catch a touchdown pass, joining William Schultz in 1992 (Week 7 against the San Diego Chargers) and Anthony Castonzo in 2014 (Week 11 against the New England Patriots). He's also the 60th different offensive lineman in NFL history to haul in a score.
"You know, I didn't even think about catching the ball, really. I was kind of one of the last options there. But Carson had told me earlier in the week if nobody goes with me, he might throw it if I yell his name," Pinter said of the play after the game. "Sure enough, nobody went with me. So, yeah, I mean, luckily it's a pretty easy catch to make."
"It was pretty cool," Pinter continued. "It's hard to put into words really. My mind kind of went blank there for a little bit, but just cool. We've got awesome teammates here. Everyone was fired up. It was a cool moment for sure."
The play was a bit of a throwback moment for Pinter, who began his college career at nearby Ball State University as a tight end. After redshirting in 2015, he started five games, hauling in three receptions for 10 yards, and then started six of the first seven games the following season — catching six passes for 46 yards and a touchdown — before suffering a season-ending injury.
Pinter was moved to right tackle the following season, where he would be a mainstay for his final two years for the Cardinals after adding 50 pounds to his frame. By his final year at Ball State, Pinter had developed into First-Team All-Mid-American Conference selection at right tackle, drawing the interest of the Colts, who picked him up with their fifth-round (149th-overall) selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Pinter played 103 offensive snaps across 13 games with one start his rookie season in 2020, including 19 as an in-line blocker, and had already logged 15 in-line offensive snaps this season heading into Thursday's game before getting his one shining moment with the ball in his hands.
"Yeah, it's amazing," Colts center Ryan Kelly said of Pinter's touchdown play. "I mean, obviously (a) big-man touchdown is big time and so you don't get this all the time. And (when) you know the guy that Danny is — you know, does anything for the team, is always prepared — it's pretty cool."
So back to earlier: why, exactly, was Hines surprised to see Pinter get the touchdown reception on Thursday — outside of the fact he's an offensive lineman, of course?
"Wow. I don't know where I was at in the walkthrough, but I don't really remember seeing that play. So maybe he slipped out or something and maybe in practice the ball went somewhere else, but I wasn't even expecting it," Hines said with a smile. "It's always great to see a big-man touchdown."