'Guys are going to follow you': Colts' Anthony Richardson makes strong first impression

Was Anthony Richardson the right choice for the Colts? (1:35)

Dan Graziano and Ryan Clark break down the Colts' decision to draft Anthony Richardson. (1:35)

INDIANAPOLIS -- Anthony Richardson reached a major milestone this week. As he prepared to debut in full-squad NFL practices for the first time, the Indianapolis Colts first-round draft choice also marked an important life event:

His 21st birthday.

Yes, the future of the Colts lies in the hands of a player who is only now permitted to legally purchase alcohol.

It adds important context given the backdrop of high expectations and hopes for the team’s new franchise quarterback. And it begs a question: Can Richardson possibly be equipped for so much, so soon?

The Colts seem to believe the answer is yes. Perhaps that’s because they’ve seen Richardson’s rare combination of confidence and humility, and it has convinced them he has the leadership capacity that is a non-negotiable quality for NFL quarterbacks.

It’s a delicate balance to demonstrate that you are simultaneously self-assured but also possess a measure of meekness. But that’s what it takes for a young quarterback to gain the trust of his teammates.

“He's coming in with a great attitude and very humble, willing to learn, willing to admit he's wrong,” said Colts veteran quarterback Gardner Minshew, who started 12 games as a rookie with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019. “Those are all very important things.”

Richardson, who was the No. 4 overall pick, knows everything he does matters. Every interaction, every statement represents an opportunity to make an impression on his new colleagues. They are paying very close attention because they know what’s riding on his success.

“I've been watching him and looking at his interviews,” nose tackle Grover Stewart said. “He looks like a great guy. We're going to be behind him, and he’s going to be behind us.”

Richardson's swagger was on full display when he launched into those on-field backflips he became known for while at the University of Florida. He punctuated his much-celebrated, record-breaking scouting combine performance with one as his workout concluded at Lucas Oil Stadium in March.

The display of swagger continued after Richardson was drafted. In his first conversation with Indianapolis media, he embraced the notion of joining the franchise where his quarterback predecessors include Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, saying, “I’m definitely going to put the work in [to] make sure I’m up there with those guys.”

Moments later, he practically scoffed at the idea that he might struggle to deal with the pressure associated with being a high draft pick at the most scrutinized position in the game.

“I feel like I’ve been dealing with pressure my whole life,” he said, before adding, “pressure doesn’t do anything but create a legend.”

And, yet, this is the same player who has endeared himself to coaches and teammates by displaying the coachability and modesty Minshew extolled.

One such example was relayed by Colts general manager Chris Ballard. During a recent gathering of NFL rookies, Richardson -- according to a version of the story told to Ballard by NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent, who was present -- stayed behind and helped clear dishes from the tables after a group dinner. Vincent told Richardson he did not need to do this, but Richardson insisted because the players had left the room in such disarray that he felt badly leaving the staff to deal with it all.

The image of a 6-foot-4, 232-pound quarterback busing tables is certainly not one you see every day. But, in Richardson, the Colts see a rare combination of qualities.

“When you have talent that you’re not going to see [but] every 20-some years and you can put it together, the guys are going to follow you if you’re a good person,” senior personnel executive Morocco Brown said.

Richardson possesses a unique maturity in his approach that the Colts believe will serve him well. He can at once show confidence in his game while also acknowledging how far he still must go.

“I’m here for a reason,” he said. “I work hard, I put the work in, and obviously, I showcased that I can be a huge talent. But there’s a lot of things I can clean up. Growing up, I always thought about Tom Brady and the way he worked. He has seven rings. People say he’s the greatest, but I’ve always heard he’s constantly trying to get better day by day. And I thought about that, like, how can a guy that great try and get better every single day?

“I haven’t done the things he’s done, and I’m like, ‘OK, I can definitely get better. If that guy is getting better, I can get better myself.’ So, it’s just a balance of knowing how confident you are in yourself but also being smart enough to understand that you can get better.”

To that end, Richardson has already targeted some specific areas where he needs immediate improvement. An example: The Colts’ offensive scheme has required some technical changes to his game that he has had to implement right away.

“The five-step drop out of the [shot]gun, that’s definitely different,” he said. “I never did that in college. So, [I’m] constantly repping that and getting better at that. Just speeding up my footwork. They always told me that in college I have to speed up my footwork. I’m always trying to work on that and get the timing right with my receivers.”

Richardson’s makeup could have a significant impact on a big question facing the Colts: When to insert Richardson as the starting quarterback? It probably will dominate discussions during training camp and beyond. Owner Jim Irsay and coach Shane Steichen have suggested Richardson could become the starting quarterback sooner than later, despite Minshew’s experience. During Thursday’s offseason team activity workout, the first this year open to reporters, Richardson was already splitting first-team snaps with Minshew.

“You have a guy who’s really talented and comes in and, shoot, you want to see where he’s at,” Steichen said. “So, let’s get him going early in the process.”

Not bad for a guy who just became legal.