Skip to main content
Indianapolis Colts


Presented by

From a text to a phone call: How the entire Colts' organization became sold on Anthony Richardson as their quarterback of the future 

This is the inside story of how the Colts, collectively, decided on Anthony Richardson as the right quarterback to select with the fourth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. 

_Generic Article Template

It started with a text. It ended with a phone call.

It was August in Gainesville, Fla., and the Florida Gators were holding a pre-season practice in the swamp. Colts chief personnel executive Morocco Brown was there to get an early look at some of the Gators' potential draft prospects. But what he saw from Florida's quarterback – a 20-year-old with 66 career pass attempts – was extraordinary.

"I saw some things at the practice I'd never seen," Brown said.

The ball exploded out of the quarterback's hands in a way Brown hadn't seen from a quarterback in two decades. Brown's mind jogged to Michael Vick – but unlike the 6-foot, 210 pound Vick, this quarterback was built like Khalil Mack.

And as the quarterback ebulliently glided up and down the practice field in Gainesville, Brown started firing off texts to general manager Chris Ballard.

"You should see this show I'm watching," Brown wrote.

And Anthony Richardson was on the Colts' radar.

"Everything just looked easy," Brown said. "So you kind of take a double take to see like, 'Man, is this real?'"

The Colts dispatched scouts to watch Richardson and dig into his background throughout the fall of 2022. Assistant director of college scouting Jamie Moore reached out to coaches both on Florida's former staff (under Dan Mullen, who was fired after the 2021 season) and Billy Napier (who was hired in 2022), and the picture of who Richardson is as an individual began to come into focus.

"He's a really grounded person," Moore said.

Richardson was born in Miami and moved to Gainesville with his mom and younger brother in sixth grade. While his upbringing wasn't that of a prototypical quarterback prospect – filled with camps and private coaches – as he wrote in a Players’ Tribune article, it was exactly what he needed it to be:

"Sometimes we didn't have food to eat. Didn't have new clothes, had to wash the ones we did have in the sink. Didn't always have the best apartment. But my mom always worked for everything. Didn't question it, didn't complain. She just did what she had to do. So I'll say this: I might not have gone to as many camps as other guys at this position, but not everybody had a mom like mine. Not everybody had to learn them lessons the way I did, through watching her. And I'm glad that's the life I got dealt, the one God gave me, because it's made me who I am today. It put something different inside of me. It's given me a different drive and a different vision."

"When you look at his past, some of the obstacles he's had to overcome, you say, man," Brown said, "it's the most difficult position to play in sports, but if he's able to fight through some of the things he's had to in life, he and his family, just to get to where he is now – then, you want to bet on that type of a person."

Richardson's personality and character only grew on the Colts throughout the process. But his production as a starting quarterback in college was up and down.

Assistant general manger Ed Dodds went to Gainesville to watch Richardson in mid-October when Florida played LSU. Richardson went 15 of 25 for 185 yards with a touchdown; he rushed nine times for a season-high 109 yards with a rushing score, too.

"He's hard to tackle, he's hard to get on the ground and he's really fast," Dodds said.

Brown saw Richardson play a few times, including later in the season against South Carolina – another one of his better games (11/23, 112 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions; 15 carries, 96 yards, one rushing touchdown).

Still: Richardson finished 2022 with a 6-6 record as starter; he completed about 54 percent of his passes and threw 17 touchdowns against nine interceptions. The surface level of his prospect profile didn't scream "obvious top five pick."

But beneath those surface-level stats was a humble, mature kid with exceptional athleticism who was already making strides last fall.

"You keep watching," Brown said. "I know he struggled early in the year, but you still saw the flashes and then he started to steady his play out. It just takes time."

Anthony Richardson and family arrive at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center to meet the coaches and media after being selected with the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NFL draft

When the Colts dove into evaluating Richardson after the 2022 season, Dodds looked at his limited resume – 13 career starts – and wondered: "What are we doing?"

"It's just a hard study, right," Dodds said. "13 games played total. Last year, I'm talking his sophomore year, he threw like 60 balls. There's really not an accurate grade on the scale for a guy that okay, he's got blue traits, but there's no resume."

The Colts didn't begin the process of evaluating 2023's class of quarterbacks with an end – be it Richardson or someone else – in mind. It was going to take hours upon hours, days upon days, weeks upon weeks, months upon months of work to identify if there was a quarterback worthy of taking in the top five of the NFL Draft.

"The further you go, the answer just happens as you do the work," Brown said. "Just do the process and then the answer will come out at the end."

As Dodds, who said he was hard on Richardson at first, watched more tape in that process, the young quarterback's poise kept shining. At one point, Colts video director Stewart Cramer put together a cut-up of all of Richardson's throws under pressure, and Dodds saw someone who possessed certain "natural instincts," he said, "that some of these other guys did not."

"So, you're going, 'Alright, we can fix some things,''" Dodds said.

At Florida, Richardson didn't drop his eyes when he was under pressure — he stayed poised and made good decisions while keeping his eyes downfield. If he scrambled, he didn't take off and run because he was panicked – he scrambled with purpose. And his remarkable arm strength allowed him to deliver throws into tight windows from any throwing platform, too.

"People have instincts," Moore, a longtime scout, said. "They have a feel for the game. You go out there, play in the yard, go on the parking lot, go over there on the practice field — some people just know how to play ball. I think it's God-given."

Another factor as the Colts' process moved on: The arrival of Shane Steichen as head coach.

A few weeks after settling into his new gig in Indianapolis, Steichen told Ballard: "There's not many guys that can do what Anthony Richardson can do." A vision began to be formed for how Richardson could fit in the Colts' offense in addition to the vision for who he was as a prospect.

"Our head coach is a straight shooter," Brown said. "So, when he came and he told us, hey, I'm looking for this at quarterback, this, that and the third. That helps narrow down what we're shooting at."

And in February, too, Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay felt a pull toward Richardson. The Colts began to believe in how, collectively, they could take Richardson's remarkable athleticism, arm strength and natural quarterbacking ability and develop him in the coming years.

It's where the process led them. Ballard kept his preference – Richardson – close to the vest, informing only a select few within the organization. It wasn't because he was worried about information leaking – "I have a great deal of trust of our internally of our people," Ballard said – but it was because he knew he had to be right about this.

And if he was wrong, someone had to tell him without knowing who he leaned toward.

"You don't want to tell the whole group what we're thinking – and it's not we're worried something is going to get out of the building," Dodds said. "It was just keep working through all the other players, all the other scenarios and speak up if you feel there is a better option or you feel strongly about going another direction."

Collectively, though, everything pointed toward Richardson.

"Some of the --- he can do, very few people on Earth can do," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said in the Colts' draft room, via a clip exclusive to Colts productions.

"I see a generational talent, something that may not come along every 50 years," Brown told Colts Productions after Richardson's pro day. "... This guy has stuff at the floor level that people's ceilings will never reach."

But, early in the spring, the process wasn't over yet.

"It wasn't like we knew the whole time," Brown said after the draft. "We knew he had talent, but then it's like, what are we looking for? What are we trying to do? What do we want our quarterback to be for the Colts as opposed to what everybody else wants?"

It was when the Colts got to know Richardson as a person that they became sold: This is our guy.

Steichen tuned in to Richardson's press conference on Friday and watched as Colts fans got their first glimpse at what he and the team's decision-makers already knew.

"The humility he had and the excitement he had, that's what you want in people," Steichen said. "I talked about it the other day, the character part of it. This guy is a good dude and when you're a good dude and have humility like that, I think you can become a really special player in this league."

Who wouldn't want to pre-order a "RICHARDSON 5" jersey after this?

Richardson is 20 years old – "can't even drink a beer yet," Steichen quipped – making him one of the youngest quarterbacks drafted in recent memory.* But ask anyone with the Colts who spent time with him in the pre-draft process, and you'll hear things like:

"We talk about the age but in my interactions, he's come across as pretty level-headed and mature for his age." - Jamie Moore

"Genuine person, he's authentic. I think he's a kind-spirited human being first and foremost." - Morocco Brown

"Every time I spent time around him, you just like him. He's just a good guy." - Ed Dodds

"He's a very smart young man. Good kid. He works." - Chris Ballard

"Special. Sparkle in his eye. His energy — i've seen a lot of young guys come into this league and I tell you, that young man has something special in his heart and spirit and soul. I know he wants to be great." - Jim Irsay

The importance behind these assessments is critical to Richardson's development. He has the humility to know he needs to be coached. He has the maturity to handle the challenges he'll face as he grows into being an NFL quarterback. And he has the assured confidence to navigate the ups and downs that come with being a greenhorn pro quarterback facing NFL defenses for the first time.

"It's hard being a rookie quarterback," Irsay, who saw Peyton Manning lead the league in interceptions as a rookie in 1998, said.

The Colts tested Richardson during a private workout in Gainesville earlier this spring, with Steichen conducting demanding drills Richardson felt were "different" than he went through with other teams. That was the point: The Colts wanted to see how he responded to the kind of coaching he'll need in the NFL.

It turned out, that's exactly how Richardson wanted to be coached.

"That's what I need," Richardson said. "That's what I want — people that's going to push me like that because I want to be better. I want to get better every day. And I know for a fact that those guys can do that and push me. We can achieve great things."

Because he possesses this mindset, Richardson's age and lack of experience were not a detriment to the Colts as they worked through evaluating him. Instead, it's a positive: Richardson may not know what he doesn't know, but he's driven to learn, and he's driven to do what it takes to be great.

"If he makes a mistake, it's not because he's doing something wrong or tried – it's just, he didn't know," Dodds said. "That's where you're like, alright, he'll listen, he wants to be good and you just like being around him."

If the work from August through April was focused on the Colts' football operations department scouting, vetting and evaluating Richardson, the coming months and years will be about Steichen and the Colts' coaching staff developing him. We'll see how much Richardson plays as a rookie – he'll have to earn those snaps on Sundays.

But the Colts also know they'll need to be patient with Richardson, whether he plays or not – and that's a message that emanates straight from the top of the organization.

"He has a lot of raw ability," Irsay said. "But look, I have to imagine if he plays the whole season, it's going to be tough. It's going to be more difficult than easy, put it that way.

"… Our fans have to have patience."

You don't draft a 20-year-old quarterback with 13 games of starting experience without a complete organizational commitment to his development, from ownership to the front office to the coaching staff. The Colts have that commitment in place.

"I think he's a good fit for us," Ballard said. "Let's not crown him yet. He's a young player, he's got work to do but we like his talent. We like what he can be. … What I can tell you is we drafted him for what we think he can really be in the future."

So the Colts are confident not only in Richardson's talent and upside, but in the process that led them to draft him with the fourth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft – and the plan that's in place to develop him.

His athletic traits are off the charts. His natural feel for playing quarterback gives him a strong foundation. And his character – both on and off the field – gives him as good a chance as possible to reach his potential.

It started with a text from Brown to Ballard. And it ended with a phone call from Ballard to Richardson.

"The guy is not a finished product at all, but to have those traits, it's just scary to defend a guy," Brown said. "The one thing for me, out of all the quarterbacks – and I got this from Mike Shanahan back in the day, he would always say, 'Who would I not want to play against? Who do I want to play against?' You're looking at it and you can say who is more polished and who is more this or that?

"He's the guy you don't want to play against."

Anthony Richardson and family arrive at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center to meet the coaches and media after being selected with the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NFL draft

*Correction: Richardson is the fourth-youngest quarterback drafted since 1970, not the second-youngest quarterback drafted since 1950 as the article initially stated. regrets the error.

Related Content

2024 Season Tickets - Now Available!

2024 Season Tickets - Now Available!

Season Tickets for the 2024 Season are available now! Get access to the best seating locations, best pricing, and best benefits as a Colts Season Ticket Member!