Last night, the San Francisco 49ers traded Isaac Bruce to the St. Louis Rams to give the 37-year-old wide receiver an opportunity to retire with his original franchise. According to Rams spokesman Casey Pearce, no players or draft picks were involved in the deal.
Both Bruce and the Rams will hold a final news conference on Wednesday night, which will be the end of what is a surefire Hall of Fame career.
In his 16-year career, including 14 seasons with the Rams, Bruce dominated his opponents. He currently holds team records in nearly every statistical receiving category, both in the regular season and the playoffs.
Moreover, in my opinion, he’s firmly established himself amongst the top five receivers of all-time. His 1,024 receptions rank fifth all-time, while his 15,208 receiving yards rank second only to Jerry Rice.
His last two years with the 49ers were rather impressive for a player his age. In 2008, he was the team’s top receiver, catching 61 passes for 835 yards. 2009, on the other hand, was his worst year ever, primarily because he was inactive for a majority of the season due to injury.
Of course, this didn’t hamper Bruce’s desire to help his team improve. Instead, he gave a different type of contribution to the team, and arguably a more valuable one. Bruce reportedly spent an inordinate amount of time mentoring San Francisco's young players.
He realized it was time to hang up the cleats, so he decided to step aside and pass down the torch to Michael Crabtree. Personally, I admired this trait, because it displayed the wisdom and unselfishness that he demonstrated throughout his career.
“Everything that he did while he was here, the professionalism, the work ethic, the candor, everything about him…it drew all of our receivers to him,” 49ers coach Mike Singletary said.
Now, with a Super Bowl ring on his finger and four Pro Bowl selections under his belt, Bruce can feel comfortable retiring, knowing he accomplished everything that most players can only dream of.
Looking back, the brightest spot of his career was probably during his glory days with the “Greatest Show on Turf." He was an essential ingredient in their two Super Bowl appearances in 2000 and 2001.
However, I believe that Bruce will be most remembered for his ability to play the game with the utmost respect, passion, and overall character. His intangibles remind me much of Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, who stay relatively quiet and allow their game to speak for itself.
The manner in which he left the field will definitely be a memorable one. In Week 17, his teammates persuaded Coach Singletary to allow Bruce on the field one last time.
Coincidentally, it was a game against the St. Louis Rams, which made it even more special. He played one snap, and instead of making a flamboyant exit, he simply walked off the field, proud, with his head held high.
Even though he was never the biggest or fastest person on the field, he used his remarkable instincts, precise route running, and reliable hands to become one of the most feared receivers ever to step onto the gridiron.
When I first started watching football, I remember Isaac Bruce shredding defenses and making big-time plays. In fact, the first game I actually watched was Super Bowl XXXIV, where Bruce made that spectacular game-winning grab.
Ever since, I have loved watching him play, as he is one of my favorite receivers of all-time.
It is truly my honor to congratulate him on a phenomenal career, and I wish him the best of luck moving forward with the rest of his life.