Richardson's NFL intro takes next step with OTAs next week

·5 min read

May 19—INDIANAPOLIS — The memory of Vanderbilt's victory against Florida last season still puts a smile on Dayo Odeyingbo's face.

But the former Commodore's joy is tempered ever-so-slightly by the fact the Gators' quarterback for that game, Anthony Richardson, is now sharing a locker room with Odeyingbo on the Indianapolis Colts.

"He actually played a good game," the third-year defensive lineman said. "His receivers let him down. But, obviously, being able to see him throw, he has a great arm, great athlete. So I'm excited to see his future here."

Welcome to the club.

Richardson already is the most talked about draft pick in Indianapolis since Andrew Luck was taken with the first overall pick in 2012, and he hasn't even thrown a pass yet in a live setting.

When OTA practices begin next week, Richardson's competition for the starting job with veteran Gardner Minshew will officially commence.

Though he won't even be old enough to take a legal sip of alcohol until Monday, there already are great expectations for Richardson.

The Colts have cycled through 10 different starting quarterbacks over the past six seasons and are just 45-52-1 during that stretch. They've made just two playoff appearances and won a single postseason game over that period, and the franchise still hasn't claimed an AFC South title since 2014.

Selected with the fourth overall pick in April's NFL Draft, Richardson eventually will be expected to clean up all of that mess. But first, he's got to adjust to life outside of Florida for the first time, learn a new playbook under first-year head coach Shane Steichen and win over a locker room full of veterans hungry to put last year's 4-12-1 disaster in the rearview mirror.

Everyone from general manager Chris Ballard to quarterbacks coach Cam Turner is preaching patience with the young field general. Success isn't likely to come in the short term.

However, the first significant steps will be taken as the full team comes together for nine practices over the next three weeks.

"I think you have to earn the respect of the guys," Minshew said of the process for a rookie quarterback. "I don't think you can just dive in — assume that or expect it. It's something you've got to earn. You earn it by, 'Man, this guy knows what he's doing. He's doing the right things.'

"Where we're practicing and he's making the right checks, doing that kind of stuff. That's how you gradually earn respect and eventually earn that leadership spot that is so important at quarterback."

Minshew was thrown into the fire as a sixth-round pick out of Washington State with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019. He made 12 starts in place of an injured Nick Foles and led the team to a 6-6 record while completing 60.6% of his passes for 3,271 yards with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Those are numbers the Colts would be ecstatic to see Richardson put up this fall.

After making just 13 starts at Florida and completing 54.7% of his passes, there is plenty of room for growth.

But over just a three-day mini-camp and short week of on-field work against air with the offense, Richardson already has shown a maturity and enthusiasm that has the organization excited for what's to come.

"I think he's got a really good head on his shoulders, kind of sees and understands what's going on around him at a pretty high level," Indianapolis offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. "I've been really impressed with him just dealing with him in meeting rooms and different situations that we all encounter each other in. So (he) just has had a good way about him handling this stuff.

"Shoot, playing quarterback in the NFL, you're usually going to have your ups and your downs. You're usually going to have some criticism and some praise. I think that's a really good trait to walk in the door with, the ability to handle what's coming at you and have a good mindset about it, and I think Anthony's done a nice job of that so far, at least in my eyes."

The story of Richardson staying behind to clean up a mess he wasn't responsible for after a rookie dinner prior to the draft already has become part of franchise lore.

It speaks to the humility of a quarterback who has commonly been described as a mix between two former NFL MVPs — Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson.

Richardson doesn't shy away from such comparisons or the lofty expectations that come with them, but his entire focus since he arrived in the Circle City has been on soaking in the concepts and fundamentals the coaches are teaching him and striving to be the best possible version of himself for his teammates.

"You see it every day with just how he acts, how he walks in the room, how he interacts with you, how grateful he is for everyone around him — coaches, people in the cafeteria, player development, everyone," Turner said. "He's just grateful for the help he's getting."

Richardson's personality and demeanor convinced the Colts he was the right pick in this quarterback class as much as his elite arm talent and athleticism.

He'll one day be expected to lead the franchise out of the quarterback limbo it has experienced since Andrew Luck retired in 2019.

And the hope he's engendered for the future already is permeating the roster.

"It definitely brings a new type of energy to the locker room, seeing a young guy with the type of ability and the type of talent that he has and the type of ceiling that he has," Odeyingbo said. "So I definitely think that brings some energy to the team that you have a guy on the team that has the potential to be the best at his position.

"So it is exciting as a player to be able to watch that and be a part of it and help him grow."