If you see the Raiders line up in a bunch formation with Henry Ruggs III on Sunday, just know that DeVonta Smith will be running down the sideline shouting.
“Watch the post!”
Smith has seen that play work out of that formation several times for Ruggs and the Raiders this season. Any other week, Smith be happy to see it. Just not on Sunday.
There is perhaps no player in the NFL who knows Ruggs better than Smith. And there’s no player who knows Smith better than Ruggs. For the first time on Sunday in Las Vegas, the two former college teammates and roommates will be on opposite sidelines.
But after the game, Smith can’t wait to trade jerseys with his very close friend.
“Anytime it’s anybody from Alabama, I try to get the jersey,” Smith said on Thursday. “This is the top one on my list.”
It’s easy to understand why.
Not only were Ruggs and Smith roommates at Alabama but they have remained very close as they have entered the NFL, Ruggs as a first-round pick in 2020 and Smith as a first-round pick this season.
“That’s my brother from another mother,” Smith said. “That was my roommate in college and things like that. Working at Alabama, this is what we dreamed of, being able to play against each other in the NFL. Now we’re here.”
And since Ruggs got to the NFL first, he’s been happy to give Smith all the tips he’s learned in his time. Most of them are about taking care of your body with recovery and nutrition.
So far this season, Smith has already gone home with jerseys from Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley. There is no shortage of Alabama receivers in the NFL.
Heck, Smith played with a ton of them. He’ll see Ruggs this Sunday and he’ll see Jerry Jeudy in a few weeks in Denver. Smith, Ruggs, Jeudy and Jaylen Waddle — all first-round picks in the last two seasons — were on the same roster in Tuscaloosa. And all four remain in contact.
Smith, 22, said he talks to his former teammates — those guys and more — all the time. That’s quite a support system in the NFL.
“We talk every day,” Smith said. “Any little thing, football, non-football. Just every day we talk.”
Back at Alabama, those four helped each other become first-round picks. Smith said everything they did was a competition. Whether it was competing for most catches in a practices, fewest drops, best GPS scores, they were always competing. Smith said he won’t be comparing stat lines after Sunday’s game but there’s a chance one or both of these two could go off.
Smith has had some ups and downs through his first six games but overall is off to a pretty good start in his NFL career. He has 27 catches for 345 yards and 1 touchdown and has shown plenty of promise as the No. 10 pick.
Ruggs last year had a somewhat underwhelming rookie season but is having a fantastic start to his second season. He has 20 catches for 445 yards and 2 touchdowns. His 22.3 yards per catch leads the league.
These four Alabama first-round receivers will naturally be compared for years to come, but they’ll be supporting one another. And the connection between Ruggs and Smith goes even beyond that. They helped get each other through their college years and forged a strong bond.
“I was the person he came and talked to, he was the person I came and talked to,” Smith said. “Us just knowing each other’s background, knowing each other’s stories, always being there for each other. Anytime I was down about something, he was always there. Anytime he was down, I was always there for him.”
Like we said, Ruggs knows Smith and Smith knows Ruggs.
And this week, Smith made sure to give a tip to cornerback Darius Slay: Watch that post out of the bunch.
“If I see him in a bunch formation,” Smith said, “I’m hollering.”
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast: