With enshrinement for the Pro Football Hall of Fame set for this weekend, the classes of 2020 and 2021 will finally enter the hallowed walls of Canton’s gridiron mecca. The headliner for both classes will clearly be quarterback Peyton Manning, but one former Ram deserves his time in the spotlight just as much.
Last year’s induction of the Centennial Class was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Isaac Bruce has grown accustomed to waiting his turn. In fact, he had to wait six excruciatingly long years to earn a bust alongside his Greatest Show on Turf brothers in Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Orlando Pace. After his 16 seasons in the NFL, Bruce felt all his career contributions were enough to become a first-ballot HOFer.
In his three times as a finalist, he failed to hear that coveted knock until it finally arrived in January 2020, before the Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. The sound of the knock was music to Bruce’s ears, and washed away any feelings of bitterness he had towards the HOF selection committee for making him wait.
“Once you get selected, all the bad taste leaves you,” says Bruce, in a story from the Miami Herald. “I’m grateful. Humbled by it. The opportunity to play is a huge privilege. To be compared now with the ultimate greats, it’s mind-boggling at times.
“When you have a Hall of Fame jacket, it’s one of those iconic sports pieces. Now I have an opportunity to publicly say thanks to a lot of people. I’m excited. I got a big crew.”
During his career, no one doubted his placement among the greats. Unfortunately, the presence of Jerry Rice overshadowed any achievements made by all receivers during his era. However, Bruce refused to stay hidden in Rice’s shadow, making his accomplishments all the more impressive.
At the time of his retirement, Bruce finished second all-time in career receiving yards with 15,208, making him and Rice the only pass catchers to have topped 15,000 yards at that time. The Rams led the league in scoring and yards gained from 1999-2001. While the team blew defenses away, they made it to two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XXXIV. In that game, Bruce recorded six receptions for 162 yards and one of the most memorable game-winning plays in the history of the Big Game.
Bruce was the first player in NFL history to have three consecutive games with at least 170 yards receiving, and he had three career 200-yard receiving games. He finished his career with eight 1,000-yard seasons, being named to four Pro Bowls as a result. Isaac’s number 80 jersey was retired by the Rams and judging by his franchise records below, it’s not hard to see why.
Bruce ranks 1st or tied for 1st in Rams franchise history in nine different receiving categories: receiving yards (14,109), receptions (942), single-season receiving yards (1,781), single-season receptions (119), receiving touchdowns (84), most seasons with 50-plus receptions (11), tied for the most 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons (8), most consecutive 100-plus receiving yard games (6), and most consecutive 150-plus receiving yard games (3).
Moving aside from his remarkable highlights on the field, Bruce has done what he can to help others off it which he did when he launched the Isaac Bruce Foundation is 2006. The organization places a strong emphasis on health, wellness, nutrition, fitness and education. Through the Foundation, Bruce reaches out to youngsters to teach them the importance of a healthy lifestyle with a focus on education.
Part of the Foundation includes its Flight 300 Program, one that provides transportation to college-age students who need the assistance. Flight 300 covers the cost of one-way airfare for a student including providing transportation from the airport to campus, covering the cost to check bags and a gift card for dorm essentials and more.
Bruce also created a scholarship program in 2008 for college bound high school seniors with a minimum cumulative GPA of at least 2.0. Other services offered by the Foundation include donating books to underserved preschool students in the St. Louis area and a free football clinic for all St. Louis area kids.
It’s evident that Isaac Bruce deserved to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame a LONG time ago. In his case, it’s much better to arrive late than to never arrive at all.
Bruce, your contributions for the Rams will never be forgotten. Your willingness to help others through your Foundation shows what a truly special person you are, and what people not as fortunate mean to you. You’ve earned your place, enjoy your introduction to immortality and just know that all of Rams nation is actively rooting for you.