Henry Ruggs III simply wants to be the best.
On Thursday, that meant attempting to be the fastest of all time.
Ruggs was the fastest of the day and among the top-10 in NFL combine history, but the former Alabama receiver couldn’t break one of the NFL’s most-distinguished records with an official 4.27-second time in the 40-yard dash Thursday afternoon on the first day of on-field work inside Lucas Oil Stadium from Indianapolis. Cincinnati Bengals receiver John Ross III’s NFL combine-record 4.22-second mark set in 2017 still stands.
Ruggs also ran an unofficial 4.31-second time in his second attempt, but his official 4.27 was tied with two others — Houston cornerback Stanford Routt in 2006 and Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin in 2013 — for sixth-best all-time and the first sub-4.28 since Ross’ time in 2017.
In the 21 years since the NFL combine implemented electronic timing in 1999, only 14 others have eclipsed the 4.3-second threshold — with just three running better than a 4.25-second 40. That includes former record-holder Chris Johnson’s 4.24-second time in 2008 and Ross’ record 4.22-second showing three years ago.
Ruggs was hand-timed with a 4.25-second 40 during Alabama’s Junior Day last March in Tuscaloosa and was routinely clocked in the low 20-mph range throughout his three-year Crimson Tide career.
Fellow Crimson Tide receiver Jerry Jeudy, also considered one of the top receivers in this year’s draft class and a potential middle-first round pick in April’s NFL draft, ran an official time of 4.45 and an unofficial 4.52 in his two 40-yard dash attempts Thursday afternoon.
Ruggs also proved he wasn’t just fast, ranking second and fourth among receivers with a 42-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-11/131-inch broad jump, while Jeudy posted a 35-inch vertical and 10-foot broad.
Jeudy and Ruggs were among 10 former Alabama players invited to Indianapolis, with Ruggs’ quest to break Ross’ record time in the 40 among the biggest storylines of the week, especially after he boldly declared “my goal is to be the fastest ever” Tuesday.
For Ruggs to break Ross’ record, it required steady improvement between each 10-yard split — shaving off a full quarter of a second between the first and second 10 yards and another third of a second before crossing the 30-yard marker. He wasn’t able to do that, especially after having his first attempt initially stopped due to a false start.
The idea, according to former NFL receiver-turned-trainer Yo Murphy, was to have Ruggs running his fastest as he crossed over the 40-yard line. Whether his performance Thursday is enough to make Ruggs a top-10 selection like Ross is yet to be seen, but it certainly couldn’t hurt in that quest.
“If (Ruggs) gets anywhere near the 40-yard dash record — which should be expected — a top-10 draft slot wouldn’t be out of the question,” USA Today draft analyst Luke Easterling told the Montgomery Advertiser last week. “We saw John Ross go No. 9 overall after breaking the record a few years ago, and Ruggs doesn’t have some of the concerns we had about Ross (in terms of) size (and) durability.”
Ruggs spent the last six weeks at Applied Science and Performance Institute in Tampa working under the tutelage of Murphy and former NFL receivers Reidel Anthony and Randy Moss to not only improve his 40 time but also refine the other parts of his game — route running, catch radius — in an effort to further show NFL personnel that he’s as complete a receiver as they’re going to find in this year’s draft class.
“Since I declared for the draft, I know I’m pretty much auditioning for a job or trying out for a job, and that’s a big thing, so I have to go out with the mindset that I’m going to be the best and nobody’s going to do better than I am,” Ruggs said last week. “So I’ve been working to get my numbers as low as possible so I can not just be the fastest this year but the fastest of all time and show that I’m a guy that can work hard and achieve my goals.”