Dynamic Henry Ruggs III could force Jets’ hand at NFL draft

If you’re wondering why Henry Ruggs III is fast climbing up NFL draft boards, listen to two of his old coaches.

Listen to Tyrone Rogers, Ruggs’ coach at Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery, Ala.

“He plays bigger than what he is,” Rogers told The Post. “When I had him, he was only like 5-11, 6-foot, 165 pounds. … You can’t tell Henry that he’s not 6-4, 220.”

Listen to Maryland coach Michael Locksley, who was Ruggs’ wide receivers coach and assistant offensive coordinator for Nick Saban at Alabama.

“He’s got a little of Steve Smith toughness, Hines Ward … to me, that type of mentality,” Locksley told The Post. “Receivers get high ankle sprains, and some of those guys are done for three, four games. He tapes it up and comes back in. He’s gonna play. He loves to play.”

So Henry Ruggs III is much more than another Tyreek Hill — with none of the accompanying baggage — much more than a former track star who blazed a 4.27 40 at the combine.

“He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Tyreek Hill,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah told The Post. “I would say he’s probably got better hands. The play speed is very comparable. Tyreek Hill may be a little bit stronger. I think Ruggs is more advanced as a receiver coming out, and obviously doesn’t come with any of the character issues that were there.”

Henry Ruggs III NFL mock draft New York Jets
Henry Ruggs IIIAP

There are NFL teams that rate Ruggs higher than teammate Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb.

“It would not shock me at all if he was the first one to go because he just changed the whole dynamic of your offense,” Jeremiah said.

Ruggs had only one dropped pass last season, had 25 career touchdowns on 100 touches and has a 42-inch vertical leap. Give him an inch on a slant and he’ll take a mile, and quickly.

“He just destroys pursuit angles like it’s ridiculous,” Jeremiah said.

“It was early in the season against one of the cupcakes they were playing,” Jeremiah said. “He blows by everybody, and the ball was severely underthrown, so while the corner is in a dead sprint trying to catch up, Ruggs has to face up the ball and catch it like a punt. He’s able to catch it flatfooted, turn around and still outrun the guy who was going full speed trying to catch up to him.”

Jeremiah has Lamb as his top receiver, but would understand if Jets GM Joe Douglas, with the 11th pick of the draft, opted for Ruggs, if an offensive tackle he prefers is not available.

“I think you could make a strong case that his speed would really open things up in that offense as well,” Jeremiah said.

Submit questions on your favorite New York teams to be answered in an upcoming mailbag

Ruggs, now 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds, was a schoolboy senior when Locksley watched him live for the first time … on the basketball court. Alabama had already offered Ruggs.

“He’s got a basketball highlight of just ferocious dunks, just a tremendous explosive athlete,” Locksley said.

Then he got to coach him. They called Ruggs “Touchdown City” as a ’Bama freshman, after every one of his five catches over the first eight games were touchdowns. The best was yet to come.

“We ran an RPO [run-pass option] into the boundary, and the ball was high and behind, and he went up and snagged it one hand behind him,” Locksley recalled of a 2018 game against LSU. “He was running full speed one direction, reached back up in the air really high, again using his explosiveness, and made a huge, huge play.”

There was a 57-yard TD off a shuttle pass from Tua Tagovailoa in a beatdown of Texas A&M. Locksley was gone when Ruggs scorched the earth with a 75-yard TD on a bubble screen on the first play of the game last season against New Mexico State … over the speed limit at 23 mph.

Rogers first spotted Ruggs as a 140-pounder at McKee Middle School.

“Basketball’s always been his first love, so he didn’t want to play football his ninth-grade year,” Rogers recalled. “So we continued to kind of pull on him and nag at him to get him to try to come out there.”

Ruggs played one game as a freshman, but didn’t play football as a sophomore. Rogers, a former defensive lineman for the Browns, prevailed on him in the summer before Ruggs’ junior year not to close the door on football.

“Son, just put all your talent in one sport,” he said. “Sometimes that sport will pick you.”

The sport picked Ruggs, and Rogers soon picked the sport: a fade to the back of the end zone.

“The guy had good coverage on him, but Henry just outjumped him, what they call this day in time just ‘Moss’ed’ him,” Rogers said, referring to former NFL receiver Randy Moss, who could soar over defenders to catch the ball. “The kid didn’t have a chance.”

Most kids didn’t.

“Henry ended up making a one-handed catch over the left side of the sideline with his left hand, ’cause the [defender] was kind of pulling on his right arm, and was able to kind of kick out of the tackle and scamper for probably about 70 yards,” Rogers recalled.

Through it all, Ruggs triumphed over a tragedy that crushed his soul in the spring of his junior year — the death of his childhood friend and basketball teammate Rod Smith in a car accident on his way to the state tournament in Birmingham. Ruggs didn’t accompany Scott that fateful day because he had the flu.

“It was traumatic for everybody,” Rogers said.

The tragedy resonated with Locksley, whose 25-year-old son, Meiko, was shot and killed in Colombia, Md., on Sept. 3, 2017.

“Unfortunately, because of the tragedy I had when I was at Alabama losing my son,” Locksley said, “he was very sympathetic to it, and I did know his story and his relationship with Rod, from the first touchdown he ever caught when he put the 3 [fingers] in the air, and I kind of asked him what that signified, and that’s when he kind of explained to me that that was the jersey number that Rod wore.”

Ruggs will continue to carry his friend’s memory into the NFL. He wears a tattoo — “I will do something great I will be something great” — commemorating his friend on his lower right leg.

“I carry him with me all the time,” Ruggs told the Montgomery Advertiser.

What would Rogers tell NFL GMs about Henry Ruggs III?

“Ultimate competitor,” Rogers said. “You don’t have to worry about him off the field.”

What would Locksley tell NFL GMs about Henry Ruggs III?

“I think everybody knows the deep-play threat that he has,” Locksley said, “but what you typically see in receivers, and they get that tag as prima donnas — this guy is a workhorse, he plays injured, he plays through pain, he plays very physical without the football … student of the game, a guy that can play all the different positions, learns really well. Unlike most of the receivers that you see nowadays with the flamboyantness, he’s kind of your old-school, old-fashioned, let-his-game-do-his talking.”

A jet for the Jets, perhaps.