Ramsí Bruce hasnít forgotten South Florida beginnings

By Kristen Haunss
Staff Writer
Posted October 23 2004

The Pied Piper had a pipe. Isaac Bruce has tickets.

The St. Louis Rams' Pro Bowl receiver from Fort Lauderdale plans to make a stop in his old neighborhood when in town for Sunday's Dolphins-Rams game, and he might have some extra tickets.

"[I want to] invite people to the game, people that might not normally have access to a pro game," he said. "Maybe I can make that dream come true for someone."

The Dillard High graduate has 60 tickets and said there will be "a lot of Bruce fans" in attendance. This is only the second time he has played the Dolphins in South Florida and only the fourth time the two teams have met in Bruce's 11-year career.

With 14 brothers and sisters, a lot of those Bruce fans will be family members. Although he said his mother, Kairethiatic, goes to St. Louis when she wants a taste of cold weather, and siblings sometimes catch games in Atlanta, it will be the first time in a while that most of the family will attend one of his games.

Still, he doesn't believe their presence will have any effect on his play because he said he has business to take care of.

"It's more important that I know that I have their support in any endeavor that I do," he said. "I don't think it will be any more intense than [usual]. They're not going to be on the field with me. My focus and my mind-set, as far as playing this game, will be high, but it won't have anything to do with my family being at the game because they watch every week on television."

At the age of 3 Bruce was recruited by his older brother, Willy, to join the ranks of the Dolphin faithful.

"I'm always a Dolphin fan, up until this week," he said. "There have only been three times I haven't been a Dolphins' fan, which was when I played them previously."

Although Willy may have passed on a love of the Dolphins, his brother Samuel passed on the love of the game.

"I grew up watching him play and that made me want to play, just follow his lead," Bruce said of his brother who played at Fort Lauderdale High.

Imitating former Dolphins Mark Clayton and Mark Duper, Bruce spent his childhood catching passes on 29th Avenue from anyone who would throw them, dreaming of becoming a Dolphin when he grew up. But coming out of the University of Memphis, he said the Dolphins were the last team to call before the draft. "That was the only nibble I got from them," he said.

But don't expect to see him playing for the Dolphins anytime soon. When asked if he could see himself donning a Dolphins jersey, amid laughter he let out an "Oh, man. I'm a St. Louis Ram through and through."

This season, Bruce leads the 4-2 Rams with 39 receptions and one touchdown. He is third in the NFL behind San Francisco's Eric Johnson, who has 45 receptions, and Pittsburgh's Hines Ward, who has 43. Bruce is second in the league in reception yardage with 537 behind Green Bay's Jevon Walker's 597.

He leads NFL wide receivers in third-down catches with 12 for 170 yards.

Bruce, 31, had 100 or more receiving yards in the first four games this season, the first player to begin a season like that since Houston's Charley Hennigan in 1963 .

"I wish I knew [what made him special]. I'd bottle it and sell it," said Rams coach Mike Martz. "He's the most intense competitor I've ever been around in any sport. I can't describe it. He's like a caged tiger, back and forth; he can't wait to get in the game."

If this dominating spirit was something his family shared with him, the Rams might get a little bit of it themselves. Kairethiatic plans to drop off some food at the team's hotel Saturday night.

Bruce said he misses Sunday night dinners, and in the offseason South Florida is his first stop.

His presence does not go unnoticed.

"I see all of the neighborhood kids. They know when I'm home. They always find me and we talk," he said. "We chat about different things, life and things I've seen and things that are available to them. I always let them know ... it is a big world and it's just waiting to be seen by those eyes."

And if Bruce spends enough time on 29th Avenue, there just might be a Bruce-wannabe re-enacting his 73-yard touchdown pass in Super Bowl XXXIV.