To understand Henry Ruggs III, you need to realize wherefrom he arrived. Sure, the big stage in Tuscaloosa is where many originally discovered the first draft pick of the Las Vegas Raiders. Yet, Ruggs’ story starts deeper than that. Lost in the lights of big-time football, lies Ruggs’ hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. To folks outside of the state, they truly have no idea what ” The Gump” brings to the table.
Quiet Nationally, Brutal History
If you ask the average American, they couldn’t tell you where Montgomery, Alabama is. However, to those in the region, Alabama is a difficult place to live. The crime rate, especially violent crime would surprise you. Racism still exists on various levels. People that aren’t Black will tell you the difference to your face. Forty-two people were murdered in Montgomery last year. Almost half of those remain unsolved. Yet, the locals attempt to thrive. Despite the odds stacked against them, Alabama residents push through. Henry Ruggs III is no different.
While football in Alabama remains a near-religious experience, basketball looms large in the area. For Henry Ruggs III, the court seemed a natural fit. Despite standing a shade under six feet, Ruggs played far above the rim. We all know the athlete who could play any sport at any time. Tremendous athletic ability runs deep within the city limits. Plying his trade at the Southeast Y, you would find the young Ruggs hoisting shots. Ruggs compiled a double-digit points-per-game. Coaches needed to convince him to give football a try. Imagine that, for a second, a first-round wide receiver, needing convincing to play.
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On March 3, 2016, Ruggs’ best friend, Roderick Scott was among five people, involved in a fatal rollover, on the way to a Lee High School basketball game. More like a brother, Scott acted as Ruggs’ motivator, sounding board, that pushed him to be more. Scott’s death shook Ruggs to his core. By his own admission, Ruggs keeps quiet and to himself. Whenever Ruggs crosses the goal line, he raises three fingers skyward, as a salute to his departed friend. Scott starred on the Lee High basketball team, committing to Jacksonville State, before his demise.
If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
Martin Luther King stated this and it applies to Ruggs and the City of Montgomery as a whole. After Scott’s funeral, Ruggs still needed to play his senior season in high school. Ruggs stood as the 75th overall national recruit by 24/7 Sports. Yet, they listed him as the eleventh-best receiver in the class. In fact, two of Ruggs’ Alabama teammates, Jerry Jeudy and DeVonta Smith ranked higher. If you thought that slight didn’t enlarge the competitive chip on his shoulder, you haven’t been paying attention.
While the City of Montgomery starts to change, Henry Ruggs will, too. A historic city just elected its first Black mayor in its 201-year existence. Meanwhile, Henry Ruggs III will begin the long trek to Las Vegas, eventually beginning his career in the NFL. For a player that needed convincing to play less than a decade ago, the Las Vegas Raiders will count on him to help them back to prominence. For a city that endured trauma, they can take pride in watching one of their favorite sons excel on a national stage.