That’s because the word “class” is one that fits Bruce like a glove. He is perhaps most remembered for the way he carried himself instead of the number of catches he made during a remarkable career that takes one more step with the retirement of his No. 80 jersey Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome, prior to the Rams’ game against the Carolina Panthers.
“It’s big,” Bruce said Friday. “Especially considering the guys (Tom Fears and Henry Ellard) that wore it (80) before me.”
In honor of Bruce, the Rams will wear their throwback uniforms from the 1999 season Sunday, and that is also fitting, because Isaac Bruce was a throwback; he played the game the way it was meant to be played.
He played hard, on every down, whether the ball was coming to him or not. He blocked and competed, and thus set a standard for every other receiver that came to the Rams while he wore that uniform.
He especially liked wearing those uniforms. “I’m really biased toward those uniforms,” he said. “They never should have changed them.”
On the day Bruce announced his retirement in June, former teammate D’Marco Farr said, “If you’re lucky enough to play this game, and then to make it to this level, to the NFL, you’re going to meet your heroes. You’re going to meet your Emmitt Smiths, you’re going meet your Troy Aikmans, whoever you consider the hero, whoever inspires you to be better than what you are, you’re going to see that guy, you’re going to shake hands with him, you may even have to hit him.
“But it’s a weird deal when one of your heroes or your biggest hero is your teammate and he’s younger than you are. It’s not about what he says; it’s about how he carries himself every single day. I just looked at him and I wanted to be everything that Isaac was about.”
Said former Rams coach Mike Martz, who will introduce Bruce at the ceremony that begins at 11:30 (30 minutes before the start of the game), “He really is what the NFL is all about. He could be the poster-man for the League, in all aspects ... character, who he is off the field as well as on the field and then, of course, as a player and his approach to the game as a professional.”
There were only a handful of players at Rams Park four months ago when Bruce stepped to the podium and spoke with heart and emotion. But coach Steve Spagnuolo took notice.
So impressed was Spagnuolo with Bruce’s words that the coach got a DVD of the press conference and showed parts of it to the team in training camp. Bruce is also expected to talk to the team Saturday.
Said Spagnuolo, “Just the depth of what he was speaking, a team player, and all the things of his experience. I thought it was really, really special so I shared it with them.”
“Really, really special.” Those simple words are the essence of Isaac Bruce. We all remember the chants of “Bruuuuuuuuuce” that began in Busch Stadium in 1995 and continued in the Dome for 12 more seasons. The touchdowns in the memorable win over San Francisco in 1999 that clearly made the statement the Rams were for real. The touchdown that won the Super Bowl over the Tennessee Titans.
But we also remember the quiet dignity that embodied him as a man, and made him a person we all had to respect. He didn’t talk a lot, but when he did you stood up and listened.
Especially his words to live by, which we all should aspire to: “Watch your thoughts for they become your words. Watch your words for they become your actions. Watch your actions for they become your habits. Watch your habits for they define your character. Watch your character for that becomes your destiny.”
There will be probably be some tears at the Dome Sunday. Some will be tears of joy. Others will be tinged with a certain degree of sadness that there just aren’t enough Isaac Bruce’s around anymore.