Could Henry Ruggs be the NFL’s Next Fastest Man?

Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (11) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against Ole Miss in second half action at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Saturday September 30, 2017. (Mickey Welsh / For the Eagle)

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What do you think of when you think of speed? For some of you it might be a super-car, for others it could be an animal, a cheetah perhaps. For football fanatics speed comes down to one test, the 40-yard dash. Every year in March as the draft creeps closer and closer, NFL executives and scouts fly out to the central location of Indianapolis, Indiana. In the days that follow, you will see many familiar faces from the league having cocktails, devouring steaks at the famous Saint Elmo’s, and reminiscing on stories from the past. While there is fun to be had at night, it is all business during the day as they will congregate in Lucas Oil Stadium for the NFL Combine.

335. That is roughly the number of former collegiate athletes that will be going through what is likely the most grueling job interview of their life while in Indianapolis. No spot in the NFL is guaranteed, so what do these players need to do? They need to put on a show.

Each day different position groups will take the field, and perform a series of drills unique to their position.  Watching all the drills will take hours and occurs during the average work day, causing many fans to miss it. As fans turn on recap shows and highlights, there will be one drill that dominates the conversations…the 40-yard dash.

4.22. That is the current 40-yard dash record, and it is held by Cincinnati Bengals receiver John Ross. He beat former NFL player Chris Johnson’s time of 4.24, a feat that many didn’t think would be possible. Let’s say hypothetically a player, Henry Ruggs III perhaps was to break the current record. What would he have done? As you probably guessed, that answer is fairly simple, he would put on a show.

Just like many NFL executives do while enjoying a steak in Indy, let’s take a little trip down memory lane for Henry Ruggs III (the full background story is written by Chase Goodbread and will be linked at the bottom). A local product, Ruggs attended Robert E. Lee high school in Montgomery, Alabama.  A three sport athlete, Ruggs excelled on the track, the basketball court and football field. By excelled, I actually mean he dominated. Ruggs joined his high school track team as a senior in high school. In his second ever track meet, Ruggs ran a 10.42 100 meter sprint. To put that in perspective, Usain Bolt an individual who has trained a majority of his life for the 100 meter sprint, ran the race in 9.58 seconds. Ruggs, with a mere months of training in track, ran it less than a second slower. On the basketball court Ruggs was a high flyer. To compliment his 10.42 100 meter sprint speed, Ruggs registered a 40 inch vertical in high school. Roderick Scott, Ruggs’ best friend would throw him lob after lob, as Ruggs registered an estimated 40 dunks during in game action. To top if all of, Ruggs was a 5 star athlete on the football field. In his final campaign as a senior, Ruggs tallied 38 receptions for 639 yards and 9 touchdowns. Ruggs would also gain 446 yards and 3 touchdowns rushing.

3/3/16. This is a date that will never leave Henry Rugg’s memory. This is a day in which Ruggs was supposed to make a drive with his brother and Roderick Scott, to watch the Jeffery Davis girls varsity basketball team in the state championship ; a drive that if made could of cost him everything. The night before the drive, Ruggs fell victim to the flu. He threw up and attempted to fight off a 100 plus degree fever. Being sick, Ruggs and his brother stayed home and didn’t make the trip to the basketball game, Roderick Scott did. On the morning on 3/3/16 a car carrying Roderick Scott hydroplaned on an Alabama highway, causing the car to roll and ultimately costing Roderick Scott his life. Grief would follow Ruggs and he made it a point to pay homage to his friend. If you take a moment to look back at the featured image of this article, you will notice Ruggs is holding 3 fingers in the sky. Ruggs does this celebration to honor his friend Roderick Scott.Henry Ruggs would ultimately commit to Alabama, and quickly showed why he would be a coveted talent at the NFL level.

Let’s start with his pros. First one is obvious….he’s fast.

Ruggs is faster than just about every player lined up against him, so Alabama uses Ruggs in multiple ways. You will see Ruggs sent in motion, taking jet sweeps, and split out wide. No matter where he is used Ruggs will find a way to torch the defense.

One thing that really caught my attention is how Ruggs won’t give up on the play. In clip below you will see an interception thrown. The defender looks like he is going to return it for a touchdown, but look what Henry Ruggs does.

That is legit 4.2/4.3 speed.

Don’t let his slim stature fool you, with the ball in his hands Ruggs is a very difficult ball carrier to bring down.

Look at the context of Trevor Sikkema’s tweet above. The Crimson Tide are up 42-7, Ruggs then makes the catch and sprints towards multiple Ole Miss defenders in an attempt to score a touchdown. The speed shows up once again, but then he absorbs two hits from defenders, and sends them to the ground. Ruggs is left standing in the end zone for a touchdown. Some might say that is running up the score but Ruggs is aware that the Crimson Tide roster is stacked with NFL talent, if he doesn’t compete on every play he won’t be on the field.

 

By now you can see Ruggs possesses speed and strength, what would make him even better? How about Body Control.

You don’t see too many players that can make that kind of play. Ruggs leaps into the air, and contorts his body mid air to adjust to the ball. Along with his body control, Ruggs has great hands. In the clip below you will see Ruggs display his body control again while he reels in a one handed catch.

I didn’t find many flaws in Henry Ruggs game. While he is not the best route runner right now, not many college prospects are. This is a skill he can gain, if he focuses on it. If Ruggs would focus on refining his release at the line of scrimmage, and develop a larger route tree he will be a force for years to come. All in all, Ruggs is an elite talent and I have a hard time believing he won’t be drafted in the 1st round of the draft come April.

 

 

 

 

If you’re interested to read Chase Goodbread’s article about Henry Ruggs, you can do so here :

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000001044473/article/alabama-wr-henry-ruggs-finds-purpose-through-loss-of-friend

 

 

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