After 15 years in the NFL—predominantly with the Los Angeles (and then St. Louis) Rams—Bruce stopped playing in 2009. Guess what he's doing now.
Although he's a busy man, Bruce took some time out of his schedule to sit down with me, and I got a chance to speak with the full-time "Seek and Save" minister of Words of Life Fellowship Church in North Miami Beach, Florida.
Rather than streaking down the sideline to catch passes, Bruce is beating the pavement in order to save souls. Yes, people recognize him, but he says that (at times) he wishes they didn't, because he's got more important things than football to talk about with them.
All those miles going from door to door are impressive in their own way, but Bruce recently traded his dress shoes for running shoes to pile up 26 of those same miles in a hurry as part of the "Rock and Roll Marathon" in St. Louis. At 40 years old, Bruce finished the race in 6:06:31.
Bruce described the race as, "a bucket list thing:"
"I told myself I would do once in my lifetime. It was a bucket list thing. I got a pretty big bucket. Secondly, it's for a really great cause—the TASK organization for special needs kids does tremendous things for special needs kids in St. Louis."
The TASK organization describes its mission in this way:
The mission of Team Activities for Special Kids, or TASK, is to enrich the lives of kids with special needs by providing athletic and social opportunities. We're proud to say we've never turned away a child because of a disability – we've always been able to adapt the sport to meet the athlete's needs.
The marathon was Bruce's first time working with TASK, but he said that the organization's mission fits in nicely with his own as the Isaac Bruce Foundation has long been "on the front lines" of childhood obesity. That's another reason Bruce ran the marathon, because, as he said, if you're going to fight obesity, you "have to look the part."
Whether it's mission work or charity work, Bruce finds that football opens doors for him.
"Football is a very big sport in America. If baseball is the pastime, football is the lifeblood. From time to time, I knock on a door and people recognize me. I use that as a stage and introduce them to my day/night job."
Since football is still so important to him, I asked how he keeps himself calm while watching this current Rams squad and how he keeps himself from throwing things at the TV.
"Sometimes, I want to do just that!"
Yet, Bruce does stay positive, and believes that better days are around the corner for the team he still loves.
"Commentators will constantly tell you how bad a team is, but I don't like to kill my wounded. Is the team young? They're young in places. They have some veteran leadership. Are they winning as a unit? I don't think everyone has jumped on that board yet...As a whole, when you look at Coach [Jeff] Fisher and the job he's doing. I think we're in a good place. I don't see the team being blown out of games."
Specifically, I wanted to talk to Bruce about the young receiving corps—often maligned and yet to really break out in any real or consistent way. First-round draft pick Tavon Austin, especially, hasn't lived up to the promise he showed at West Virginia or in the pre-draft process.
"When I talk to the receivers on the team, you can hear it in their voice. They wanna be good. They want the opportunity to make plays. I understand how this game is—the ups and downs. When I look at the receivers, I just see a ball of energy. They help each other out, they block for each other. There's still some inexperience."
On Austin, Bruce wants to preach some of his trademark patience, noting that it took him "eight weeks" to really get rolling when he was a rookie—"to stop thinking and play." He wasn't ready to completely lay blame on Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for Austin's ineffectiveness, as so many Rams fans are wont to do.
"Maybe a little more inexperience on Tavon's part and a little Schottenheimer not putting him in places to succeed. People don't realize how important the running game is. If there's a running game, there's not a zone in front of you. That's man-to-man coverage."
Bruce clearly still believes in the Rams, yet faith seems to come easy to the former Rams receiver. So do hard work, passion and determination. He may be done with the NFL, but Bruce is never far from the game he loves.
He just has some more important stuff to do, right now.
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