INDIANAPOLIS – Without a doubt, Indianapolis Colts fans are excited to see first-round pick Anthony Richardson in his preseason debut.
The University of Florida star will start for the Colts against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.
He’ll have some big shoes to fill—and it will be interesting to see if Richardson can recapture some of the “preseason magic” from his two most recent rookie predecessors.
Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck both had touchdown passes on their first professional throws in the preseason.
Here’s a look back…
Manning-to-Harrison sizzles from the start
Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison shared uncanny chemistry during their time together in Indianapolis.
Their connection was apparent from the start, with Manning hitting Harrison on a slant for a 48-yard touchdown on his first pass as a professional. It came against the Seattle Seahawks in the first game of the 1998 preseason.
As was often the case with Harrison, a well-executed route got him into the open field, allowing him to use his speed to get past the defense and into the end zone. It was beautiful in its simplicity.
“I thought, ‘Boy, this NFL is not that hard. You just throw the ball to Marvin Harrison and you throw touchdowns,”’ Manning later recalled. “I remember kind of whispering that to myself running down the field in that Seattle game.”
Manning finished the game with 113 yards on 8-15 passing plus the touchdown in the Aug. 8, 1998, game at the Kingdome. The Colts lost 24-21.
The regular season proved to be much more of an ordeal. The Colts finished 3-13—the same record as the year before—and Manning set the NFL mark for interceptions by a rookie QB with 28.
It all turned out just fine–eventually.
Manning-to-Harrison would become the most prolific quarterback-receiver duo in NFL history. Both are now enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Luck matches Manning
It would be hard to top the Manning-to-Harrison preseason debut, but Andrew Luck gave it his best shot.
The first overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft came to Indianapolis in Manning’s shadow. The highly touted Stanford product was viewed as a can’t-miss prospect—so enticing that the Colts decided to move on from Manning, the legendary quarterback who brought a Super Bowl championship to the Circle City.
Luck made his preseason debut on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, against the St. Louis Rams. His first pass also found the end zone.
This time, it wasn’t a wide receiver. Instead, Luck hit running back Donald Brown—himself a first-round pick for the Colts—with a short pass. Brown did the rest, sprinting upfield and outrunning the defense for a 63-yard touchdown.
Again, things looked easy. Luck tossed a second touchdown to Austin Collie and finished the game 10-16 for 188 yards and two scores. The Colts beat St. Louis 38-3.
“To get a win, get in the game and put some drives together is great,” Luck later told the media. “But I realize, and the guys in the locker room realize, it’s a preseason game and things will be different as the season goes along.”
Luck led the Colts to the playoffs in his rookie year. The team finished 11-5 but lost to Baltimore in the Wild Card round.
Luck didn’t get Manning’s longevity or storybook ending, however. After struggling with injuries for several seasons, the franchise quarterback retired in shocking fashion during the 2019 preseason.
Richardson’s up next
After riding the quarterback carousel from 2019 through 2022—Colts starters included Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles—the Colts chose Anthony Richardson with the fourth overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft.
The rookie started only 13 games in college. He’s raw and athletic with a cannon arm and tantalizing speed. During training camp, he’s had some excellent days and some rough ones.
For Richardson, experience is key–and any live reps will prove beneficial in the long term. Coach Shane Steichen named Richardson the starter for Saturday’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills (1 p.m., CBS4).
It remains to be seen whether the new guy can keep Manning’s and Luck’s preseason rookie feat going.