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BenFred: How a personal seat license refund turned into an Isaac Bruce Foundation donation

BenFred: How a personal seat license refund turned into an Isaac Bruce Foundation donation

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Minority-owner Kroenke is a major reason for Rams' successful season

Isaac Bruce was the guest of Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke at the Mizzou-Indiana basketball game at Hearnes Center on Dec. 7, 1999. (Post-Dispatch photo by J.B. Forbes)

Isaac Bruce politely interrupted.

I called the St. Louis Rams legend and three-time Hall of Fame finalist wide receiver to tell him about an email that arrived this week.

He needed to hear about Greg and Sue Hall.

The husband and wife are big fans of Bruce. They became original personal seat license holders when the Rams moved to St Louis, buying two seats for $1,000 each. For seasons from behind the end zone, they cheered Bruce as he starred and scored during the team’s "Greatest Show on Turf" heyday. They celebrated a Super Bowl win and mourned a Super Bowl loss.

The Rams surged and subsided. Bruce became a San Francisco 49er, then retired. Stan Kroenke collected more power as Rams owner, and made moving the team to Los Angeles his top priority. The NFL helped him make it happen. Greg and Sue soured on The Shield.

“I’ve pretty much turned it off since then,” Greg said by phone. “The NFL still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

But the fun they shared with Bruce? Those memories are forever preserved. They will stay. In part because Bruce did.

Bruce lives in Florida, but you would have a hard time knowing that if you keep track of how many times he returns, and how active his Isaac Bruce Foundation is here in St. Louis.

So, when checks arrived this week to former Rams PSL holders who participated in the since-settled class action lawsuit that successfully forced the Rams to pay fans back for the years of football they took away, Greg and Sue knew where their cut of that cash would go.

Their check from the Rams is being turned into another check, one addressed to the Isaac Bruce Foundation.

I did not want to give Bruce the impression that I was calling about a lottery-ticket, a massive-cardboard-check amount of money.

Thirty percent of $1,000 is $300. Doubled, it's a $600 donation with a heck of a story. That's when Bruce stopped me.

“Well, I tell you what," he said. "Back in the '90s, that amount of money was life-changing to me. It was a significant part of what I needed to travel and start my college career. Any amount helps. To have someone thinking about the foundation and the impact we’ve made in the city, it’s special. It’s very helpful. A blessing."

Bruce, as you already know, once again is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He belongs in Canton.

The statistical evidence that makes his case a common-sense 'yes' has been presented in these pages many times.

The receptions (1,024). The yards (15,208). The touchdowns (91). The longevity (223 games). The perfect routes receivers still study. The lack of ego in an era defined by it at his position.

Whether those numbers and intangibles will be given enough consideration by the committee during its debate about 15 modern-era players is hard to determine.

Bruce is at peace.

“I’ve given it over to the Lord, placed my trust in his timing, his promotion,” he said. “Psalm 75 tells me promotion doesn’t come from the East, the West, or the South. It comes from Him. My trust is in Him.”

What the Hall of Fame voters won’t consider — but perhaps should — is the beautiful bond that remains between Bruce and St. Louis, one that has perhaps grown stronger since the NFL relocated the Rams.

It was Bruce who stepped forward to help start healing the wound of relocation by organizing an alumni game at the Dome, an attempt to bring a sweeter memory to the venue he once owned on Sundays.

His message that day was clear.

The NFL was done with St. Louis.

Bruce and his foundation are not.

“That was important to me,” Bruce said. “I was drafted with the Los Angeles Rams. We moved to St. Louis. It was kind of like a relationship. Sometimes, in a relationship, someone has to make the first move. St. Louis made the first move to me. The city just adopted me. There is work to be done in the city. I was placed in that spot to let my light shine. And we have done that. We are on a path to making a real change."

The Isaac Bruce Foundation, founded in 2006, has maintained a steady presence in St. Louis.

The free football clinic arrives every summer.

The foundation’s literacy efforts have placed books in the hands of area preschool students and on the shelves of public school libraries.

His scholarship program started in St. Louis in 2008 and continues to reward college-bound St. Louis graduates with $5,000 to put toward their studies.

And then there is the foundation’s Flight 300 Program, which helps college-bound students in need handle the travel costs of getting to their respective campuses.

Bruce received help from a coach and close friend as he relocated from junior college in California to Memphis State.

Now he helps young people with similar trips across the country.

Like any football player worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, Bruce hopes to slide his shoulders into a gold jacket. The legacy he's built here in the city that adopted him will still be the one he cares about most.

“Absolutely,” Bruce said.

That deserves some promotion.

“That’s Bruce’s character,” Hall said. “He grew where his roots were planted.”

Glory Days at the Dome

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