INDIANAPOLIS –Bert Jones was the second overall choice in the 1973 draft out of LSU, one of the most gifted physical throwers ever to come along.
The Ruston Rifle had a very good career with the Colts, becoming at the time only the second rookie starter for the club on opening day.
Jones played with the club through 1981, earning a 46-46 starting record. His 46 victories as a starter rank third in club history behind Peyton Manning (141) and John Unitas (118).
Jones remains a close observer of the NFL and the Colts in particular. He believes Andrew Luck, who is poised to become the sixth rookie opening-day Colts starter on Sunday in Chicago, has a bright future, a very bright future.
"I have seen him a few times. He is what I would call, 'The serious real deal.' Andrew has phenomenal motor skills," said Jones. "I like the way he moves on the field. I like his tenacity, just everything about him. I think he is a 'can't miss' kind of guy."
Players often are asked to compare talents against players they have seen previously, but Jones says Luck does not really remind him of anyone specifically.
"Not really, other than he has excellent throwing skills," said Jones. "I like his presence on the field. He's good, big and strong. Everything about him makes him look like he's polished already."
Jones only was able to start five games his rookie season, while playing in eight overall. He remembers the rigors of learning to play in the NFL.
"There is a learning curve from college ball to pro ball, but that learning curve is learned by playing," said Jones. "You can learn a lot of things by watching in practice, but there is no substitute for being in the ballgame. I think he will be just fine. I would be protective and not ask him to do too many things. Everything I know, see, read and hear is that he's smart, and he comes from a background where he should not have many 'shockers.'
"Stanford is not the SEC (laughs), but it's good football. Andrew shows his skills wherever he is. He truly is a talent. I hated it for my good friend (Peyton Manning) who had to move on, but I'm happy for (Owner and CEO) Jimmy (Irsay) and the Colts because he (Luck) is going to be one whale of a player for them."
It was reported that Luck was timed at 4.6 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. If that measureable is correct, it would mirror what Jones did himself years ago.
"Actually, 4.6 is what I did run, but I'm not worried about whether he can run (laughs)," said Jones. "He's pretty fast. Let's just hope we don't need him to run. You do need speed, though, to get away from linebackers. That's one of the biggest changes (since I played). I can remember when a defensive end ran me over and I was fast. That's when I knew things were tough."
Some people regard playing the quarterback position as being the toughest job in sports. Jones stops shy of ranking it among other sports, but he knows where quarterbacking ranks in the game.
"I'm a little prejudiced, but I don't think there's any question the quarterback position is the toughest in football," said Jones. "I'm not going to go on and say the position is the toughest in all of sports. It certainly is a competitive position where you compete in a lot of different arenas, not merely with your motor skills but with how you manage the rest of your teammates, how you call the right play at the right time to make sure you put teammates in an opportunity to be successful most of the time. Strategically, it is the most challenging that I know of."
Jones feels Luck is well equipped for where he is heading into the opener at Chicago. It will be Luck's first dose of seeing NFL defenses that are more sophisticated than those on the collegiate level.
"I'm not worried about the mental or physical curve for Andrew Luck," said Jones. "He's smart enough to handle it. He has the motor skills now physically to compete with anyone. I don't have any major concerns with him at all. He will see a lot more defensive coverages. He will see more blitz schemes, zone blitzes and other things he did not see (in college)."
Jones believes Luck, who will be the 37th player ever to start as a Colts quarterback and the 10th to do so as a rookie, will be eased into the job smartly by the coaches and hopes Luck has the benefit of support around him. All in all, he thinks watching Luck perform will be good for Colts fans everywhere.
"I think it's going to be fun to watch and one of those things that, 'Hmmm, we made the right decision here,' " said Jones.
ALL-TIME COLTS QUARTERBACKS WITH 20 STARTING VICTORIES
Peyton Manning, 141-67
John Unitas, 118-61-4
Bert Jones, 46-46
Earl Morrall, 22-3-1
Jim Harbaugh, 20-26
STARTING RECORDS OF COLTS ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS
1953-Ed Mioduszewski, 0-1
1954-Cotton Davidson, 0-1
1955-George Shaw, 5-6-1
1973-Bert Jones, 1-4
1982-Mike Pagel, 0-8-1
1986-Jack Trudeau, 0-11
1988-Chris Chandler, 9-4
1990-Jeff George, 5-7
1998-Peyton Manning, 3-13