A player's perspective on Isaac Bruce

Isaac Bruce officially retired from the NFL this week, and he did so as a St. Louis Ram after the club traded for the WR before he made his formal announcement.

For me personally, seeing Isaac retire brought back plenty of memories to the 2000 season when I was drafted by the Rams. As a rookie walking into that locker room, it was hard not to be starstruck by the enormous amount of talent and the Super Bowl rings they all received from the 1999 season.

Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Todd Lyght, London Fletcher, Orlando Pace, Ricky Proehl, Torry Holt and of course, Isaac. You want to talk about professionals — this was it.

And, like most rookies who are drafted in the sixth round (holding out hope that their name eventually gets called), I was, well, to be honest — a nobody. Drafted No. 198 overall.

Basically, just a safety who was stiff in the hips, could be used in the box to take up lead blocks in an eight-man front, and of course, run down and cover kicks — taking a beating along the way. And, just making the team that year was a battle.

But, watching Isaac and learning how to work, how to prepare and how to treat each practice like a business meeting was huge for my career. I remember seeing him in practice, the attention to detail every time he came to the line of scrimmage and the perfection he demanded as a pro player — from himself. You want to talk about an athlete that was smooth — that was Isaac. Effortless is what I call it, when a player can run a double move — even a triple move — at full speed near the top of his route without hesitation.

Try covering that or the deep dig route that we will see in Chicago this year from the Bears receivers in Mike Martz’s offense. No one did it better than Ike.

However, I always go back to what he was like in the locker room. There are plenty of guys whom I played with or played against during my career that were great athletes on the field. But, Isaac treated everyone in that building like a true veteran should — with respect. I viewed him as a role model because he was a player I could learn from in so many ways.

And, I will always respect that.

Yes, I know where this discussion goes, as anytime a player retires from this league after a successful career, we always turn our attention to the Hall of Fame.

Understandably, I am beyond biased when it comes to Isaac’s career. But, when I look at his career numbers, his two Super Bowl appearances and his ring from the ’99 season, I do believe I have a valid argument.

Sixteen seasons as a pro. That is a lifetime in this league. So many that Isaac’s first season in the NFL with the Rams came in Los Angeles. It takes a true pro to keep playing and to keep producing for that amount of time. It takes a player to dedicate his body and to show up every training camp. Not easy.

But, it usually comes down to numbers when we talk about the ballot.

OK, what about these: 1,245 receptions, 15,208 yards and 91 TDs. If these numbers aren’t good enough to head to Canton, then what is? Where do we draw the line on success and how can we judge players’ careers if we don’t put Isaac in the Hall of Fame?

I don’t vote, but if I did, I would have no issue voting Isaac Bruce in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer — because he stood for what was good in the NFL.

And, he produced beyond what is expected at the wide receiver position.

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

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