Back in August, Colts general manager Chris Ballard checked his phone and saw a message from Morocco Brown.
"You should see the show that I'm watching on this practice field right now," the Colts' chief personnel executive texted.
Brown was in Gainesville, Fla. watching a Florida Gators practice – specifically, watching a quarterback who wasn't on yet on the national radar. Anthony Richardson had thrown 66 passes at the college level when Brown caught a glimpse of him in the swamp – but the talent was as undeniable then as it was on Thursday, when the Colts made Richardson the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
"He's a pretty unique athlete and talent," Ballard said.
The tape told one story, but the Colts were sold on Richardson after spending time with him in the pre-draft process, whether that was at a private workout in Florida or welcoming him to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on a top-30 visit. Head coach Shane Steichen puts a high value on football character and an obsession with the game, and through getting to know Richardson during those visits came to believe the 20-year-old has what it takes to excel as a quarterback in the NFL.
Again, beyond the outlandish physical traits and athleticism.
"His character – the vetting process that we did, calling around people that know him, that have been around him, that's a big part of this thing," Steichen said. "There are a lot of guys that I know that I trust that I talked to about him and everything was, you know, right at the top of the list as far as that (character).
"Then, just going through having him here, getting to know him as a person, talking football with him, I think he's got a chance to be a really good player in this league."
Ballard described Richardson as "smart" and a hard worker, too.
"We knew after we spent our time, worked him out, spent a lot of time with him, just felt really good about who he was as a person," Ballard said. "Of course, he's still young but just felt really good about who he was."
One of the areas of growth for Richardson will be in his accuracy – he completed 54 percent of his passes in 2022, and while there's more context to that number than meets the eye, it'll have to improve at the NFL level.
Steichen, though, said earlier this year he believes accuracy can be improved through coaching and scheme; Ballard agreed with that belief on Thursday.
"One thing we're seeing in the league now is guys you can work on and get them more accurate," Ballard said. "Just footwork, fundamentals, there are certain things I think we can do and I think you've seen guys jump in our league. I think you'll see him jump."
Something else that'll help with Richardson's development, too: Playing more. But that doesn't mean Richardson will walk into the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on Friday as the Colts' starting quarterback; he'll have to earn reps both in practice and games.
"The development of players comes with more experience," Steichen said. "(Richardson had) 13 starts, I think when you play more, that's how you develop. You know what I mean? So, with him playing and his experience as a player and getting more reps, practice reps, game reps, I think that's how you develop."
View photos from Kansas City of QB Anthony Richardson selected 4th overall by the Colts in the 2023 NFL Draft.
One thing Richardson already possesses is poise under pressure – when things break down, he stays calm and confident either in the pocket or on the move. That's a critical trait for a quarterback, especially an under-the-legal-drinking-age guy in Richardson with 13 career starts at the college level.
And it's a trait that can translate to how Richardson handles the pressure of being the No. 4 overall pick for a franchise that's had Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck behind center in the last two and a half decades.
"He's young, but he's very poised," Ballard said. "I think you see it when he plays. Like, when you look at his – he's a very poised young man. Even though he hasn't had a lot of starts, just the one thing that I kept going back and watching, all his pressures. Everybody that pressured him. That's when you really saw his poise come to light. Like any young man – he turns 21 here in the middle of May – he's going to have growing to do, like all of them do. We'll help him, we'll help him, we'll bring him along and he'll be a good player for us."
And the last thing on Richardson: The Colts believe in him not only for who he'll be when he hits the practice field on 56th Street, but for who he can be two, three, four, five years down the road.
"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. ... We drafted him for what we think he can really be in the future."