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Competition Forged Alabama Roommates DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs

Smith called his former college teammate Henry Ruggs his brother from another mother

PHILADELPHIA - You can't walk too far in an NFL facility these days without running into an Alabama alum or two and Sunday's matchup between the Eagles and Raiders features two of the most dynamic young playmakers in the league who just happen to be former roommates in Tuscaloosa.

Las Vegas' Henry Ruggs beat the Eagles' DeVonta Smith to the league by a year and both were a part of an almost unfathomable WR room for Nick Saban. 

Ruggs and Denver's Jerry Jeudy were taken at Nos. 12 and 15 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft and somehow Miami's Jaylen Waddle (No. 6) and Smith (No. 10) managed to outdo that this past April.

All grew very close at the nation's top football program but Ruggs was the closest of them all to Smith, who has been as advertised as a rookie with a team-leading 27 receptions for 345 yards in his first six games as a professional despite some inconsistent play at the quarterback position by Jalen Hurts.

That's a quicker ramp-up than Ruggs, who managed only 26 catches for 452 yards in 13 games as a rookie. The sophomore campaign has started out better for Ruggs, who has been the NFL's biggest home-run hitter early in the season by showing off his blinding 4.27 speed by averaging a league-high 22.3 yards per reception.

“That’s my brother from another mother,” Smith said when discussing Ruggs before Thursday's practice. “That was my roommate in college and things like that. When we were working at Alabama, this is the stuff that we dreamed of - being able to play against each other in the NFL. Now we’re here.”

DeVonta Smith had seven catches for 77 yards in win over Panthers

DeVonta Smith

All of the recent Alabama first-round receivers stay in contact daily with a group text.

"We talk every day," Smith said. "Little things, football, not football. Everything. Every day we talk."

As roommates usually do, Smith said he and Ruggs leaned on each other whenever they had something they wanted to get off their chests, whether it was on the field stuff or off.

"We both had our own things going on," said Smith. "I was the person he came to talk to, and he was the person I went to talk to. So us knowing each other’s background, knowing each other’s story, and always being there for each other. Anytime I was down about something he was always there. Anytime he was down I was there for him.

With Ruggs and Smith, it's mainly about video games, not trash talk.

"We get to the house and play 2K," said Smith. "Same stuff we did in college. We honestly haven’t even talked about the game. I think it was Sunday I brought up the bunch-formation thing. After that, we went back to playing 2K."

The bunch-formation thing is where Ruggs has been excelling in 2021 so far.

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"I already told him the bunch formation where he runs the post if I see him in the bunch formation, I already told him I’m hollering, you’re not scoring this week," Smith joked.

MORE: Nick Sirianni and His Staff Simulate Game-Management Situations

The rookie said that the Eagles' defensive coaches haven't tried to take advantage of his close relationship to Ruggs but Smith did give Darius Slay the head's up although the savvy, veteran cornerback already had noticed Ruggs' success out of the bunch looks.

"With the bunch formation thing, I told Slay that, just let him know. He said 'yeah I already saw that, I already know,'" said Smith.

The Raiders have a number of playmakers with star tight end Darren Waller, a former receiver in college at Georgia Tech, and slot WR Hunter Renfrow serving as the high-traffic options for quarterback Derek Carr and Ruggs' creating the space underneath with the ability to pop the top of the defense at any time.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon will likely use Slay to shadow Waller or Ruggs and bracket the other.

As for Smith, he's the biggest problem for Gus Bradley, the Raiders' DC. And despite the close relationship between the two former Alabama stars, each will want to earn the bragging rights on Sunday afternoon.

"Everything was a competition [at Alabama]," Smith said. "Not just with him and me but the whole receiver room, everything was a competition, who had catches in practice, who ran the best routes and things like that, no dropped passes in practice, everything was a competition. Even the GPS tracking, everything was a competition with us."

They won't compare stat sheets following Sunday's game, but they will swap jerseys.

Smith already has two jerseys from former Crimson Tide players from earlier games this season - Atlanta's Calvin Ridley and Dallas' Amari Cooper. Now, he'll get one from Ruggs.

"Anytime there’s anybody from Alabama I try to get the jersey," Smith said. "This is the top one on my list probably."

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.