NFL’s next fastest player? Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III wants to set 40-yard dash record at combine

INDIANAPOLIS – Henry Ruggs III knew he could fly when he started to outsprint his mother while growing up.

"I just got confidence from playing with her. We used to race to the car, race from the house, race in the street," Ruggs, who played wide receiver at Alabama, recalled Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine. He said his mom's track background included specialization in the 100 and 200 meters.

"Racing with her, once I started to beat her, she told me, 'You're gonna be able to run.' That helped me develop a lot of confidence."

Which is why he's now targeting John Ross' three-year-old combine record in the 40-yard dash. Ruggs' dash for glory will commence Thursday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"I'm trying to hit the lowest ever, so 4.22 or lower," he said.

Ruggs' unofficial personal best is 4.25 seconds but he insists, "I can get better."

The buzz was building long before he arrived in Indy.

"I think he's going to absolutely fly. Everybody knows it's coming. He's still going to do it. I think the second number will be a 2. I don't know what the third number will be," said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah.

"But he's the closest thing to Tyreek Hill that I've seen since Tyreek Hill entered the league. (It's) just looked like he's been on a different speed than everybody else. This kid does the same thing. He's so sudden off the line of scrimmage. It's instant death for corners."

Ruggs' success with the Crimson Tide bears out the point. In three seasons at Tuscaloosa, he scored one of every four times he got the ball, racking up 25 TDs (all but one on receptions) on 100 career touches from scrimmage.

"I am willing to bet if you went and polled the 32 defensive coordinators in the NFL," said Jeremiah, "said which of these guys do you not want in your division, I would be willing to bet a lot of money that Henry Ruggs would get the most votes. That's the guy you do not want to face."

Not one to flout expert analysis, Ruggs largely co-signed the comparison to Hill, who stars for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, and agrees his top-end speed "puts fear in coordinators and DBs."

Teammate Jerry Jeudy conceded: "You can't stop it."

But Ruggs wants to show at the combine that he's more than just a fast guy. He only had one drop at 'Bama. And he's willing to return kicks and play special teams, which includes lining up as a gunner.

"I feel like I bring everything. I'm a play maker. I don't pride myself on just speed, I want to be a guy who does everything on the field. I'll get downfield, try to block for my teammates because I expect them to do the same for me," said Ruggs, who measured 5-11 and 188 pounds.

"I want to showcase everything – my catching ability, my route running. … Show that I'm a complete receiver and I can do everything that you need me to do."

If he pulls that off, he could very well vault to the top of what's widely recognized as a loaded crop of receivers, perhaps bypassing Jeudy and Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb as the initial wideout off the board in April.

But first things first … and that means overtaking Ross' preeminent post in the combine's speed annals.

"I'm always going to bet on myself," said Ruggs. "I'm very confident in what I do."


Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

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