Why "a spirit of excellence" qualifies Isaac Bruce for Hall
Former wide receiver Isaac Bruce is one of 27 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2018, and that's the good news for the former Rams' star. The bad is that this class of wide receivers is loaded, with Randy Moss joining a group that already included Bruce, Terrell Owens, Torry Holt and Hines Ward.
Yet, as one of 15 finalists for the Hall earlier this year, Isaac Bruce is a favorite to make the next cut.
The question, of course, is: Then what? How do you make a case for Isaac Bruce when guys like Owens and Moss -- receivers who had bigger numbers and were all-decade choices -- are among the candidates?
It's a good question, and one we posed to Bruce on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. And he did not hesitate to respond. In fact, if Bruce is among the finalists for the Class of 2018, I strongly suggest that whoever makes his case to the board of selectors pay attention now.
Because Isaac Bruce just made your job easy.
"I think I've envisioned this moment," he said. "If I was ever called on to help the person presenting me, this is kind of just what I'd say. I'd just say, 'Speak the facts.' We talk about values -- the commitment, integrity, courage, respect and excellence ... I like to say I like to have ... and live ... a life of excellence; a spirit of excellence.
"You have to mention my numbers and my ranking when I retired vs. those of current Hall-of-Fame wide receivers: Second all-time in receiving yards; fifth in catches, I believe; and in touchdowns I was sixth. Second person ever to reach 15,000 career receiving yards.
"So what I like to do is put my hand over the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time, Jerry Rice) and kind of just go down from there. So second person to ever do that. Every time I touched the football I averaged 15 yards a catch, which is a first down-and-a-half. Career totals: Over 1,000 catches; 15,000 yards receiving and I like to say 101 (touchdowns) catches with an asterisk.
"Because I only finished with 91, but when you factor in the Super Bowl game-winning touchdown I know I'm going to give myself 10 for that. It's the dream that every wide receiver who's ever played in the league ... that's the way he wanted to end the Super Bowl. And I was fortunate -- along with two other guys like Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress -- to end the game that way, and I think mine was a little bit more dramatic because I had a catch-and-run."
He's right about the catch-and-run. It was Bruce who in January, 2000, hauled in a 73-yard bomb from Kurt Warner with just under two minutes left to push the Rams to a dramatic 23-16 defeat of Tennessee and their first-ever Super Bowl victory and first NFL championship since 1951.
I don't think this story can be mentioned within the first 100 years (of the NFL), and my name not come up.
And he's right about most of the other information, too. When he retired, he was second all-time in receiving yards, the second ever to reach 15,000 yards, fifth in catches and ninth, not sixth, in receiving TDs. And his 1,000th-career catch? It came against the Rams after Bruce had joined the San Francisco 49ers.
"(And there was) just my organizational impact," said Bruce, laying out a strong case for himself . "My number's retired by the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams. I 'discipled' their receivers and their defensive backs -- guys like Torry Holt, Eddie Kennison, Kevin Curtis, Az-Hakim. Defensive backs like Dre Bly, Taje Allen, Dexter McCleon.
"I like to say when I see them: 'I raised you guys,' and it's a running joke between us. But I served the Rams well for 14 seasons. I got two team MVPs, and when I finished with the 49ers I finished as an MVP. I played hard, played hard when it didn't matter and I shined when it did matter. So the consistency is there.
"If I had a vote myself, and I had to vote for a wide receiver, these are the things ... this would be my criteria for these guys: I mean, just how long you did what you did; the impact when you left; your numbers, obviously, and your National Football League impact."
Bruce is the Rams' all-time leader in catches, yards and receiving TDs, and, among all NFL receivers, he ranks fifth in career yardage, 12th in career receiving TDs and 13th in catches. What's more, among the top 11 receivers of all time, only Randy Moss (15.6) has a better yards-per-catch average than Bruce (14.9).
But Moss never won a Super Bowl. Bruce did.
"I don't think this story can be mentioned within the 100 years (of the NFL)," Bruce said, "and my name not come up. So those are the cues that I would give the person presenting me, and I'd just leave it at that."