Isaac Bruce has been through this drill before. The former Rams great, a centerpiece of The Greatest Show on Turf, was a rookie in 1994, the last season the Rams played in Los Angeles. Bruce spent 13 seasons of his illustrious 16-year career in St. Louis, eclipsing 15,000 receiving yards, 1,000 receptions and most importantly, earning a Super Bowl ring with the 1999 team. He remains a community pillar in the region.
As Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley and the current roster of Rams prepare to migrate to Los Angeles, Bruce shares his unique perspective of having made the reverse trip. He also reflects on St. Louis as a city and explains why this isn’t a final goodbye for local fans.
Melissa Jacobs: What was your reaction when you heard the news that the Rams were heading back to Los Angeles?
Isaac Bruce: I can’t really say I was shocked. Probably the last two years it’s been a cloud of “maybe the Rams will go back.” I saw what that did, leaving L.A., especially to the Melonheads and die-hard Rams fans there. I also saw what happened when we got to St Louis. It was packed stadiums. Fans were very hungry for football. They were very knowledgeable. They were there through a lot of downs and at the mountaintop. It’s bittersweet.
It’s a reminder that the business part of what we do has to be taken care of. It’s unfortunate that feelings and emotions have to be pushed to the side.
MJ: Do you feel like St. Louis fans provided enough support?
IB: I do. Honestly, I do. From the governor to the politicians to the fans themselves, the public funds that were available were impressive. $200 million is a lot of money. To put something together in that short amount of time and have it sealed, it showed the fortitude, the courage of the people to keep football.
MJ: Has it been hard to see the empty stadiums the past few years?
IB: It’s been very hard. I knew what could be in that stadium. I’ve experienced great times in that stadium with fans to the rafters. Tickets used to be hard to come by. Just to see opposing fans’ jerseys all over the place, that was kind of sad.
MJ: One of the knocks you would hear about St. Louis as a football town is that it was a baseball town first. Did you feel that?
IB: When we first got to St. Louis, it was pandemonium. It leveled off at one point around when Mark McGwire started doing his thing with the Cardinals. The product is important, and it will be in Los Angeles as well. People like winning. Players like winning. Fans like winning. I like winning.
MJ: How would you describe the emotional connection between the citizens of St. Louis and the Rams?
IB: They experienced the lows and highs when we were rolling. St. Louis was a hard place [for teams] to play when we were winning. You couldn’t hear because of the fans being so loud. They made it easier for us. They were on a first-name basis with us. They showed up at every event, supported the foundations that we had. It was a love affair.
MJ: Speaking of foundations, the Isaac Bruce Foundation, which touches the lives of so many, is based in St. Louis. How beneficial has it been to have an actual NFL team there, and are you concerned about any adverse effect the move will have?
IB: What we do is God ordained, and we’re there to make a positive impact in the city of St. Louis and will continue to do that. We expect growth and expansion. My plan when I started this in 2006 was to spill out to other cities, and now we have a platform in Los Angeles.
MJ: I can see how it’s a great opportunity.
IB: Of course. As a franchise, we started in Cleveland, went to Los Angeles, then to St. Louis and back to Los Angeles. We’re a Ram Nation. We’re a Ramily. A Rams family. Every city celebrated the Super Bowl in ’99. Every city we were in, they considered themselves Rams fans. I don’t see that changing.
MJ: How difficult was it for you to relocate from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995?
IB: You’re talking about a 21-year old coming to St. Louis. I was very immature. I think it probably extended my career being in St. Louis versus being in L.A. at that time.
I had spent two years prior at the junior college in L.A. and then go to St. Louis, a place I didn’t know at all. I didn’t know what to expect. I had a really good feeling about Los Angeles at the time. I only knew cost of living would be a little lower in St. Louis.
MJ: A little?
IB: Yeah, more than a little bit. So that was a big plus. Other than that, emotionally, it’s hard to see what this does to the fans. My heart is with them and what they gave us. Unfortunately, sooner or later, I don’t want to say this will blow over, but a lot of people will forget about it and it’s going to be exciting in Los Angeles.
MJ: How do you feel about [Rams owner] Stan Kroenke?
IB: It takes a strong leader to make tough decisions. You have to do mathematics, add some things up. He’s a native Missourian, named after two great Cardinals players. My message is that I’m a Ram for life. I want the best for my organization. I want football people who can take football players and mold them so we can have a winner. Ultimately I think Mr. Kroenke did what was best for the organization. And he did what was best for him.
MJ: Do you think St. Louis will have another football team?
IB: I think it’s a great city. I would hate to see other teams use St. Louis as a place where they threaten to land if they don’t get what they want in their city. I can see the city with another team, an expansion team, so they can really establish their own roots, their own legacy and be successful with it.