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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Isaac Bruce's No. 80 Is A Number For The Ages

    Isaac Bruce's No. 80 is a number for the ages

    BY JIM THOMAS
    Friday, October 29, 2010

    As the Rams gathered in July 1994 for what would be their last training camp as the Los Angeles Rams, all the rookies were shoved into a back room. They dressed separate from the vets at the University of California-Irvine.

    Some were talkers. Some were jokesters. Some were quiet and none more so than the skinny-legged wide receiver from Memphis State, Isaac Bruce.

    "You could tell he meant business," said D'Marco Farr, then an undrafted rookie. "He wasn't there to make friends. He was there to practice and get better and make this football team. You could tell that from day one."

    Bruce made the team, and didn't stop there. He became one of the greatest Rams ever. Such lofty status becomes official and immortalized Sunday when Bruce's jersey No. 80 is retired in a pregame ceremony at the Edward Jones Dome.

    "I've had the fortunate chance to see other great players, not only in football but in other sports have their numbers retired," Bruce said. "You're pretty much ingrained into an organization once you're drafted or you sign with that team. But to have that organization retire your number? This happens to people like Jackie Robinson and other great players."

    And it's happening to Bruce.

    "We'll have a great time celebrating it," Bruce said. "I'm just honored. All I've been thinking about is that when you honor father God, he honors you. That's all that just keeps pouring in my mind. He's honoring me, because I honor him."

    For Bruce, it promises to be a hectic yet memorable weekend of fun and catching up with friends and teammates. On Thursday night, he was guest of honor at a dinner for Rams sponsors. Tonight, he hosts the Celebrate 80 event at Lumiere Place to benefit the Isaac Bruce Foundation. The event is sold out. On Saturday, he's scheduled to speak to the Rams squad and has been diligently working on his speech.

    Martz, Vermeil & more

    The jersey retirement ceremony begins at 11:35 a.m. Sunday, or 25 minutes before kickoff for the Rams' contest against Carolina. Former Rams coach Mike Martz, now offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears, is scheduled to introduce Bruce. (Martz is able to attend only because the Bears are in their bye week.)

    "It's only right," Bruce said. "That's all I can say about it. It's only right. You know, Mike's been there with me from day one. He was one of the guys that was very important in my career.

    "I think we developed a bond. He was always honest with me, and I was always honest with him. And it worked out well. I'm honored that he could come into town and be a part of this."

    Another of Bruce's former head coaches, Dick Vermeil, also is scheduled to take part in the weekend festivities. That may surprise Rams fans who remember Vermeil referring to Bruce as a 'so-called superstar" in 1997 a response to Bruce's criticism of the offense's effort in a loss to Seattle. This came at a time when recurring hamstring injuries sidelined Bruce for 15 games total during the '97 and '98 seasons, a period in which Vermeil's grueling practices led to team discord.

    "There was a rough patch there," Bruce said. "But I believe rough patches are the steppingstones for a great relationship. So we ended up having a great working relationship. As evidenced by he's going to be in town this weekend celebrating this moment with me. So, it's awesome."

    (Vermeil also attended Bruce's wedding several years ago.)

    About two dozen former Rams, many of them from the Greatest Show on Turf teams, are descending on St. Louis for the weekend as well and will be introduced on the field during the jersey retirement ceremony.

    "That's the fun part about it," Bruce said. "A lot of guys I played with in LA will be coming to town. It'll give us a chance to reminisce and probably talk about a lot of stuff that went on in the locker room, and on the plane, and on buses and that type of stuff. So it'll be fun."

    One of those LA Rams, Farr, won't have far to travel. He's a St. Louisan now, doing local radio and serving as an analyst for Rams games. He's as excited about the weekend as any Rams alum.

    "Just because it's '80,' " Farr said. "You can't honor the guy enough in my thinking. Just going from the whole trip from LA to here. And then watching his rise as one of the greatest ever. It's the coolest thing because I was there at the beginning."

    A bond with St. Louis

    Bruce took a lot of pride in being the last "LA Ram" on the roster, but over the years developed a genuine affection for St. Louis. He still has a place here.

    "I think it started from day one when we went to Green Bay (in 1995) and plays were being made," Bruce said. "I had an opportunity to make a play on special teams and come right back and score a touchdown.

    "And then, for the first home game at Busch Stadium, it was just electric. And the electricity never went out. So I guess I paid my bills and paid my dues, and we just developed a bond that we kept going."

    A generation of St. Louis football fans grew up watching him play, something Bruce didn't entirely realize while he was playing.

    "For me to come back to town and I see kids in elementary school right now who know about the Greatest Show on Turf, who know about the history of the Rams, it's satisfying," Bruce said. "You kind of get chills just knowing these people weren't even born, or they were very young at the time. But they have those memories that were passed on obviously from their parents, their uncles, their aunts. So, it's big. It's huge. That era was huge for us."

    The always humble Bruce's favorite moment in the dome doesn't even directly involve himself. It's Ricky Proehl's "Catch for the Ages" the touchdown catch that gave the Rams an 11-6 victory over Tampa Bay in the 1999 season's NFC championship game.

    "It sent me to my first Super Bowl. Sent the Rams. Sent St. Louis to its very first Super Bowl," Bruce said. "So, it was big for me. That play right there stands out head and shoulders above the rest."

    Maybe so. But perhaps what takes place Sunday will come in a close second.

    Past meets present

    Bruce attended the Washington game earlier in the season and likes what he sees from the Rams.

    "They're right there," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see the Rams winning the NFC West this year I wouldn't be surprised at all. I think they have it on defense. They're stopping people. They've got the chains moving on offense. Considering what they lost as far as the wide receivers are concerned, man, they're doing an awesome job. That's coaching. That's guys buying into a system."

    The roster turnover has been so dramatic in recent years that Bruce doesn't know many of the 2010 Rams. But he knows Steven Jackson, and the two stay in touch.

    Bruce all but gushes over rookie quarterback Sam Bradford.

    "Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah," Bruce said. "I don't want to just anoint him the next Tom Brady, (Brett) Favre, or even Kurt Warner. But I think he has it. I think he has what it takes. I've never met him personally, but just watching him play, I think the guy's very accurate, has a strong arm, and one thing about it, he's not an emotional player. He doesn't have ups and downs in his emotions. But he comes out and he does his job and he does it well."

    Bruce is developing a solid relationship with coach Steve Spagnuolo.

    Spagnuolo is all about character players, and there's no doubt Bruce would easily qualify for Spagnuolo's four pillars.

    "I'm very happy for him," Spagnuolo said. "I was very, very impressed when he was here, and he had the retirement press conference when he talked. I still have that on DVD because I just thought it was so impressive, all the things that he said."

    In fact, Spagnuolo said he showed excerpts from the speech to the Rams during training camp this summer. Even in retirement, it seems Bruce is still helping the Rams.


  2. #2
    LA Rammer's Avatar
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    Re: Isaac Bruce's No. 80 Is A Number For The Ages

    Here's a list of all retired numbers up to now:

    * 7 Bob Waterfield
    * 28 Marshall Faulk
    * 29 Eric Dickerson
    * 74 Merlin Olsen
    * 75 Deacon Jones
    * 78 Jackie Slater
    * 80 Isaac Bruce Will be retired on October 31, 2010
    * 85 Jack Youngblood
    LA RAMMER

    It's Jim not Chris
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HNgqQVHI_8

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    Re: Isaac Bruce's No. 80 Is A Number For The Ages

    Soon:

    * 8 Sam Bradford
    * 39 Steven Jackson


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    Re: Isaac Bruce's No. 80 Is A Number For The Ages

    Love the fact that Ike likes what he sees in Bradford. Coming from him, that says a lot. I also love that fact that he is developing a relationship with Spags. Hopefully it will lead to something in the future because IMO, Ike has a lot to offer.

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    Re: Isaac Bruce's No. 80 Is A Number For The Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
    Love the fact that Ike likes what he sees in Bradford. Coming from him, that says a lot. I also love that fact that he is developing a relationship with Spags. Hopefully it will lead to something in the future because IMO, Ike has a lot to offer.
    I couldn't agree more Mike, Isaac needs to be doing something for the Rams, a true role model on and off the field, he would fit nicely into Spags vision.

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