In 2008 Isaac Bruce, who had played for the Los Angeles (’94)/St. Louis Rams for fourteen seasons, was released by the franchise. “No worries,” I quietly thought, “the Rams will re-sign him just like they did in 2006 when they released him that year to restructure his contract!”
Subsequently the San Francisco 49ers signed Bruce to a two-year deal. Upon hearing the news that Bruce was going to be a Niner, I was instantly stunned and crushed; but as the NFL and other sports organizations are — a business — I understood completely, regardless of my inner-conspiracy theorist.
When Kurt Warner retired in February, fans and NFL pundits noted his upstanding membership to the NFL community and his classy offerings every time he played on the field and spoke off of it. When Isaac Bruce quietly retired a couple weeks ago on June 7, there was hardly a peep outside of the Rams community.
For example, Isaac Bruce had played his entire career wearing the number 80. When he came to San Francisco, the obvious dilemma was the fact that NFL legend Jerry Rice’s number 80 would not be worn. However, Rice gave the green light to Bruce so that Ike could wear the said number 80. Bruce decided against it and chose the number 88. Obviously that would be the sensible and respectable thing to do in anybody’s case, but Bruce’s easy decline exemplified that unwritten fact.
Bruce won a championship in the ’99 season (and also caught the game-winning touchdown bomb from Kurt Warner) and almost won another in the ’01 run. He mastered the art of route running and made defensive backs work. He was never the fastest receiver in the league and hardly the most acrobatic, but he garnered yards because he found ways to get open. His hard work and coherent connection with quarterbacks made him elite. He never made a peep off the field, and on the field he was a defensive nightmare. Just look at the fact that he’s second all-time in receiving yards at 15,208
Bruce was a four-time Pro Bowler (honestly, he deserved to have appeared in many more), [as mentioned] is second in all-time receiving yards (15,208), fifth in receptions (1,024), and ninth in touchdown receptions (91). Bruce is also the all-time receiving leader for the Rams.
As Bruce walks out of the league, one more integral piece of the Greatest Show on Turf also bows out.
While I fail to properly put Bruce’s retirement into proper respect, I say “Mahalo,” Mr. Bruce. Your character and your fine, fine play will be sorely missed.