INDIANAPOLIS – In 1973, Bert Jones became just the second Colts rookie quarterback to start on opening day.
His stat line that day read six completions in 22 attempts for 56 yards with one touchdown and interception in a 24-14 loss at Cleveland.
Jones failed where George Shaw succeeded in 1955 when Shaw directed a 23-17 victory over Chicago.
Last year, Andrew Luck became the sixth Colts rookie opening-day starter (also accompanying Mike Pagel, 1982, Jeff George, 1990, and Peyton Manning, 1998), but he joined the other five as he and club fell to the Bears, 41-21.
What ensued was a stellar rookie season where Luck set NFL rookie marks in attempts (627), yards (4,374) and 300-yard games (six), while tying the record with seven game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Luck's 11 starting victories fell two behind the post-Merger record by a rookie (13, Ben Roethlisberger) and tied with only three others (Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Russell Wilson).
MOST ROOKIE STARTING VICTORIES IN A SEASON
Thirty-seven players have started at quarterback in Colts history, and Luck's victory total already ranks ninth.
He is one of only four Colts quarterbacks with more than 10 victories to have a winning record (141-67, Peyton Manning; 118-61-4, John Unitas; 22-3-1, Earl Morrall).
Jones was one of the more talented Colts quarterbacks ever, with a rifle arm, gifted wheels and a football intellect honed from a football family.
Jones' father, Dub, was the offensive coordinator for Cleveland after a successful playing career there, and the younger Jones was weaned in Browns training camps from 1962-69.
Jones, who had a 46-46 starting mark with the Colts and directed division winners from 1975-77, says the game will be more second nature for Luck this year.
"The game, I feel, will be significantly easier for him," said Jones. "His learning curve of understanding the pace of the game and the defenses he'll be facing won't be new anymore."
Jones played under a quarterback-friendly coach in Ted Marchibroda, a coach who nurtured players at that position throughout his career.
Luck was handled well last year by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, using a vertical attack that stresses defenses and allowed Luck a wide range of latitude.
This year, Luck will toil under Pep Hamilton, who directed him at Stanford.
"I go back to the premise that he did not have the preseason work he'll get this year," said Jones. "He'll walk into the season with his offense being second nature, not something new and new to him. He'll feel it as a part of his persona as he moves forward.
"Before, I truly believe, unless he's different than anybody I've ever thought about playing that position, it was part of the thought process. I don't think it will be this year. Here we are in May. We have four months before preseason starts. He'll be gangbusters. He already was."
Jones was an interested observer of Luck last year. He has remained a fan of the Colts and of his former position in particular since his career ended 32 years ago.
Tuning in Luck and the Colts last year was part of his routine, and Jones saw a maturing talent leading his former team.
"I saw him play four or five times and toward the end of the year, even though they weren't all his best games, he looked better every week to me," said Jones. "The given is his motor skills are exceptional, I mean truly exceptional.
"Talents like him don't come around that often. Now, his mindset will be complementary to his motor skills. I think he's only going to get better.
"I am so impressed by what I see from Andrew as a person. My impression is that he's point-on with everything he does."