INDIANAPOLIS —Back in 1999, the Indianapolis Colts had a young, but promising, rookie offensive lineman with a chip on his shoulder after he went undrafted the previous year out of North Carolina.
But even that player, Jeff Saturday, wouldn't start out his rookie season as a starter for the Colts that year.
Fourteen seasons later, Saturday retired as one of the greatest centers in NFL history, anchoring one of the best offenses the league has ever seen.
That should put into perspective what Deyshawn Bond could accomplish on Sunday.
If Bond indeed is in the starting lineup for the Colts in their season opener against the Los Angeles Rams, he'll add his name to a very short list of undrafted centers to start at the position Week 1 of their rookie year.
In fact, since 2001, only four players — Hank Fraley (Philadelphia Eagles; 2001), Shawn Lynch (Arizona Cardinals; 2005), Alex Parsons (Oakland Raiders; 2012) and Anthony Steen (Miami Dolphins; 2016) — have accomplished that feat, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Digging even deeper, just three undrafted offensive linemen have started at least one game for the Colts in their rookie seasons since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger: Ron Plantz (started three games in 1987), Saturday (started two games in 1999) and Jonotthan Harrison (started 10 games in 2014).
To Bond, the start could be a reward for all the hard work he's put in since making the Colts' offseason roster in early May as a local tryout player out of the University of Cincinnati.
"If guys are willing to put in the work and go out there every day, experience is a huge key factor, but the amount of work you put in to accomplish something is also a key factor," Bond said. "So me, I go out there every day, I work on my fundamentals and my techniques, my coaches coach me up to where I need to get better at certain things, my teammates push me and keep me going to make sure I do get better at those things."
That hard work certainly hasn't gone unnoticed.
When starting center Ryan Kelly went down with a foot injury during practice on Aug. 10, head coach Chuck Pagano didn't hesitate to immediately put Bond in with the No. 1 offense in Kelly's place.
While the offensive line has seen a few changes here and there since that day, Bond hasn't moved from that spot.
"Bond has played well," Pagano said. "He's been one of our most consistent performers throughout training camp and the preseason. Ever since he's got here, grateful — thankful — that we have him."
Bond could be one of two Colts players making their first-career starts for the Colts' offensive line on Sunday, joining Jeremy Vujnovich, who played in parts of Indianapolis' two final games of the season last year, but is now listed as the starting left guard in the most recent unofficial depth chart.
While Pagano acknowledges there will be a few mistakes made along the way, he's confident both Bond and Vujnovich won't be overwhelmed by the opportunity they have been given.
"Again, there's going to be some on-the-job training. There are going to be some bad moments — that's OK. Put them behind you and you move on," Pagano said. "I'm excited. I've got great confidence in those guys because I know they're going to be prepared and they're going to play tough and they're going to play physical and they're going to play smart."