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
Glory days at the Dome
Compiled in February 2016 by Post-Dispatch online sports editor Mike Smith:
National media bought into the Stan Kroenke narrative and routinely referred to the 20-year-old Edward Jones Dome as "aging." Or worse. A sports columnist in Kansas City, where the NFL team plays in its own drab concrete bowl, wrote late last year that the Dome is "widely considered a dump."
Even on the pages of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and this website, "The Ed" has been described as sterile, dismal and obsolete. What's more, the venue's landlord — the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission — announced last month that it's contemplating demolition of the Dome.
Call it what you will, or in the CVC's case, do with it what you will. But St. Louis sports fans — even the ones who agree with the negative perceptions of the facility — will retain memories of spectacular events and performances that played out in the city-block-long-and-wide downtown stadium.
Here's a look back at some of the unforgettable sports moments — with a bow at the end to the non-sporting event that easily drew the largest crowd of spectators in Dome history:
Nov. 12, 1995: First game in the Dome
Excerpts from stories by Post-Dispatch football writer Jim Thomas on the Rams' 28-17 victory over Carolina, and the early seasons at the Dome:
The Rams certainly got a rise out of the new Trans World Dome, filled to the brim with 65,598 fans — a record for a professional sporting event in St. Louis.
"It was scary coming out, " defensive end D'Marco Farr said. "The lights and the smoke. I forgot we were home for a minute."
A couple of things stuck out to the Rams about those early years in the Dome:
• How hard the original surface was.
• And how loud the crowd was.
The noise and adoration that showered down from the stands more than made up for the burns.
“I thought Busch Stadium was loud,” wide receiver Isaac Bruce said, laughing. “The new dome was pretty loud. I think just the way that noise hit the roof and came back down. Just being in the stadium and hearing the noise the crowd made. And they were cheering for us.”
Oct. 10, 1999: New Rams punish 49ers
From the Post-Dispatch game story by Jim Thomas:
The report was filed shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday to the Missing Persons Bureau. By now, the search party will be out in full force ... looking for the Same Old Rams.
You know, those gridiron sadsacks who lost over and over and over again to the San Francisco 49ers. Seventeen straight times before Sunday's rousing 42-20 Rams victory. Where are the Same Old Rams?
"You know what? I don't even want to hear that phrase, " said defensive end Kevin Carter, who had been 0 for 8. "Because after a while, the Same Old Rams are going to be the ones in the playoffs."
One last time: Where are the Same Old Rams?
"It's kind of a flip of the circumstances, " said wide receiver Isaac Bruce, who had been 0 for 8. "Because we'd always be losing and get upset and want to fight. And that's kind of what the 49ers did."
In this upside-down, topsy-turvy NFL season, the Rams finally turned the 49ers' on their heads.
Quarterback Kurt Warner continued his amazing run, throwing for 323 yards and five touchdowns Sunday. Bruce, meanwhile, turned the 49ers' defense into the 'Frisco Melt, toasting their secondary with a franchise record-tying four touchdown receptions.
"Isaac Bruce, if he isn't the best receiver in the National Football League, he's right with the group, " Vermeil said.
Jan. 16, 2000: Rams-Vikings playoff game
RAMS 49, VIKINGS 37
The Rams hadn't been in a playoff game in 10 years when they took the field at the Trans World Dome against the Vikings. A lot of people wondered if the team, which had gone from 4-12 to 13-3 in one season, was for real. On the Rams' first play from scrimmage, Kurt Warner threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce.
The Rams trailed 17-14 at halftime, but Tony Horne returned the second-half kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown as the Rams rolled off 35 consecutive points. Warner completed 27 of 33 passes for 391 yards and five touchdowns. In all, the Rams set 25 team or individual records in the game. "Well, so much for not having any playoff experience, " coach Dick Vermeil said.
PHOTO: Rams quarterback Kurt Warner celebrates after throwing five touchdown passes in a 49-37 playoff victory over the Minnesota Vikings at the Trans World Dome. (AP Photo)
Jan. 23, 2000: NFC championship
RAMS 11, BUCCANEERS 6
The "Greatest Show On Turf" Rams trailed 6-5 at the start of the fourth quarter before Kurt Warner, who threw three interceptions, completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl with 4:44 to play. It was the first TD catch of the season for Proehl, who outfought a Bucs defender in the end zone for the grab.
Tampa Bay then drove to the Rams 22 with 1:25 to play and the Rams benefited from a replay review, which nullified a key Bucs' gain (two months later, the NFL changed the rule and the play would have been ruled a catch). Two plays later, on fourth down, a pass into the end zone was incomplete. The Rams were going to the Super Bowl.
PHOTO: Ricky Proehl grabs the fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Kurt Warner that gave the Rams an 11-6 playoff win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and sent them to Super Bowl 34. (Photo by Chris Lee, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sept. 4, 2000: Monday Night Football
From Jim Thomas' game story in the Post-Dispatch:
It was a statement game, an opportunity for a recent Super Bowl winner to show that it's of championship caliber once again. And on Monday -- the first "Monday Night Football" game in St. Louis since 1986 -- it was the Rams who did the talking.
Before a raucous full house at the Trans World Dome, the Super Bowl 34 champion Rams defeated Denver 41-36, winners of Super Bowls 32 and 33. Was that the NFL or Arena football they were playing Monday in the Dome? Talk about your track meets. The teams had 424 yards and 38 points between them -- and it was just halftime. In the TV business, that's called holding your audience.
Oct. 15, 2000: Greatest Show On Turf gone wild
From Jim Thomas' game story in the Post-Dispatch:
Football fans, it has come to this for the St. Louis Rams: They score 45 points. They pile up 529 yards of offense. And it's an average day.
Average. After all, the Rams were averaging 43.4 points and 505 yards a game entering Sunday's contest. So by those standards, yes, they were pretty average in dispatching Atlanta 45-29 at the Trans World Dome.
"I don't think we're actually that happy with how we played today, overall, " offensive guard Tom Nutten said. "There's always room for improvement."
Oh. OK. Such as — what? — scoring on every possession? Gaining 1,000 yards? Having the Warner Bros. catch passes one-handed?
By completing 24 of 40 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns, Kurt Warner tied an NFL record with his sixth straight 300-yard passing day.
Marshall Faulk rushed for a career-high 208 yards and had a career-high 286 total yards from scrimmage.
That meant the Rams are the first team in NFL history with a 300-yard passer and a 200-yard rusher in the same game.
Jan. 27, 2002: NFC Championship
RAMS 29, EAGLES 24
The Rams won their fourth consecutive playoff game at the Dome and their second NFC title in three years, but it wasn't easy. They trailed 17-13 at halftime before scoring 16 consecutive points -- including two touchdowns by Marshall Faulk -- to take a 29-17 lead. The Eagles cut the lead to five points and had a chance to win when, on fourth down from the Philadelphia 48 with 1:47 to go, Aeneas Williams intercepted a Donovan McNabb pass (above) to seal the victory. "It was a championship heavyweight bout -- that's what it amounted to, " Rams coach Mike Martz said.
Dec. 7, 1996: Big 12 football championship
From Bernie Miklasz's column in the Post-Dispatch:
The first Big 12 Conference football championship was a classic. Too bad that only seven actual St. Louisans purchased tickets to this colorful event, dominated by 60,000 Nebraska fans and one shaking-and-baking Texas quarterback named James Brown.
Texas pulled off a rollicking 37-27 upset, roping Nebraska hard to the floor of the TWA Dome. Dour Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, long opposed to the concept of playing a conference title game, would have preferred a fishing trip this weekend. And his mildly interested Cornhuskers reflected that. Favored by three touchdowns, No. 3-ranked Nebraska gave up 503 total yards and 22 first downs. And Texas only controlled the football for 20 minutes of game clock. The Cornhuskers allowed an astounding average of 25 yards per minute and were glowing from the nuking.
PHOTO: Texas quarterback James Brown sets to pass against Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship game at the TWA Dome in St. Louis on Dec. 7, 1996. (AP Photo)
Dec. 12, 1999: Mizzou vs. SLU basketball
From Vahe Gregorian's game story in the Post-Dispatch:
By popular demand, it seemed, the dormant men's basketball series between the University of Missouri and St. Louis University at last was resuscitated Sunday at the Trans World Dome.
Nineteen years of neglect, squabbling and petty turf wars ended with the Billikens fending off a final Mizzou flurry to win 75-72. "I just couldn't wait to play this game, " said SLU's Justin Tatum, a CBC graduate who scored all 12 of his points in the second half.
As eagerly awaited as the game was thought to be, though, attendance was a disappointing 25,790 -- little more than the basketball capacity of Kiel Center and nearly 15,000 seats below the Dome's basketball capacity.
Reasons for the failure to fill the arena were unclear but probably stemmed from a variety of causes, including the weather, Rams fever, and the appeal of hearing colorful former MU coach Norm Stewart and former SLU coach Charlie Spoonhour yak on the TV broadcast.
PHOTO: SLU's Chris Heinrich (35) and Justin Love try to block out Mizzou's Kareem Rush during the Dec. 12, 1999 game at the Trans World Dome. (Post-Dispatch photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.)
April 4, 2005: NCAA Men's Basketball Championship
From Vahe Gregorian's game story in the Post-Dispatch:
An otherwise enchanted centennial season for the University of Illinois basketball team came to a bitter end Monday night as the North Carolina Tar Heels won their fourth national title with a 75-70 victory over the Illini.
If it wasn't quite an Illini-wreck before nearly 50,000 fans at the Edward Jones Dome, it nonetheless rendered the climax of their would-be fairy tale grim after a breathtaking comeback fell short.
But that thud was countered by the jubilation of Carolina -- whose seniors had suffered through an 8-20 freshman season, whose unstoppable Sean May became just the third son to follow his father in winning an NCAA title.
Perhaps equally moving was the spectacle of a first national title for Carolina coach Roy Williams, heretofore caricatured as a cross between Wile E. Coyote and Capt. Ahab in pursuit of his Roadrunner/White Whale -- a championship appropriate to his splendid resume.
The Illini (37-2) overcame a 15-point second-half deficit for the second time in three games but never could overtake the Tar Heels (33-4), led by May's 26 points on 10-of 11-shooting.
Despite the anguish of Illinois and its fans, who dominated the arena less than three hours from their campus and little more than a mile from the state border, the season inevitably will be remembered as a triumph for the program. And the game provided an indelible bright spot for St. Louis.
Hosting its first NCAA Tournament Final Four since 1978, the city was the beneficiary of an enthralling matchup between the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in The Associated Press poll -- the first in a title game since 1975.
PHOTO: Spectators watch semifinal action between Illinois and Louisville during the 2005 NCAA Final Four at the Edward Jones Dome. (AP Photo)
Sept. 1, 2007: Mizzou vs. Illinois football
From Bryan Burwell's column in the Post-Dispatch:
On one sensational afternoon in the shadows of the Gateway Arch, Mizzou and Illinois — two traditionally lukewarm programs begging for some authentic flavor of their own — gave us something that felt very much like, well, the Big Time. Before high noon, the Edward Jones Dome was in the eye of a perfect college football storm, full of tailgating, impromptu pep rallies and a genuine bowl-game atmosphere.
The pomp and pageantry turned out to be the perfect prelude to a delightful, if totally inartistic football game, as Missouri held off Illinois 40-34 in the revival of the Arch Rivalry.
The 64,000 folks who crowded into the Dome spent most of the afternoon riding high one minute, sinking low the next, then bobbing right back up and down on these unpredictable emotional slaloms. "We could hear it too, " laughed Tigers wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, "(The noise) was over here, then it was over there, then it was back over here depending on which team was making plays. But isn't that what rivalry games are all about?"
PHOTO: Missouri cornerback Pig Brown celebrates with safety William Moore after Moore picked off a pass late in the game to end an Illinois drive at the Edward Jones Dome. (David Carson photo / Post-Dispatch)
Aug. 10, 2013: Ronaldo puts on a show
From Tom Timmermann's game story in the Post-Dispatch:
Of the entire 90 minutes of soccer played at the Edward Jones Dome in the match between Real Madrid and Inter Milan, there was one moment that, for just about everybody there, made it all worthwhile.
In the 38th minute, Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro sent a perfect pass through the Inter defense. Cristiano Ronaldo, the man most everyone had come to see, ran on to the ball and in stride hit it from the top of the 18-yard box with his right foot across his body and into the far side of the net.
That was what everyone wanted, a masterful goal by one of the greatest players in the game today. The crowd of 54,184 went wild with the goal. Ronaldo, who in addition to being a sublime talent is also an accomplished showman, ran over to the end line, faced the stands and acknowledged the fans with a wave of both arms in front of him, as if to say, “Ta-da.”
PHOTO: Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (left) celebrates his goal at the Edward Jones Dome on Saturday. Photo By David Carson, email@example.com
Nov. 27, 2004: Missouri high school football championships
The Missouri high school football championships have been held at the Edward Jones Dome since 1996. One of the most memorable games involved MICDS in 2004 — here's an excerpt from the Post-Dispatch's game story:
Ron Holtman had never seen anything like it in his 50 years as a high school football coach. Holtman's MICDS Rams trailed Harrisonville by 25 points late in the first half of the Missouri Class 3 championship at the Edward Jones Dome. But MICDS didn't give up.
MICDS scored 25 unanswered points to tie the game with 10 minutes 54 seconds remaining in regulation, tied the game again on a fourth-down pass in the first overtime period and then pulled off the improbable comeback with a 38-yard field goal and a fourth-down stand in the second overtime to win 45-42.
MICDS (14-0) had its first state championship since 1996. It was the seventh state football championship in his 39 years at MICDS for Holtman, who announced his retirement from coaching the football team soon after.
Monster trucks take over Dome floor
The Dome has been a regular stop for monster trucks competition and the venue often is packed for the events. Here's an excerpt from a Kathleen Nelson story previewing the "Monster Jam" competition at the Dome in 1998:
St. Louis is the cradle of monster trucks, which perhaps explains why our town was chosen as the site of the Monster Jam series finale in 1998.
The sport sprouted out of St. Louisan Bob Chandler's sense of adventure. Chandler souped up his Ford 250 4X4 in 1974 so he could enjoy a little off-road fun. Then, one day, Chandler drove the big boy to his 4X4 parts store in North County, where it attracted a lot of attention - and customers. He then got the idea to use the car to market the store by entering and outmuscling the tractors in pulls.
But the turning point in monster truck history came in 1981, when Chandler decided to jump over a row of junker cars. He repeated the feat in the Pontiac Silverdome, and requests for his performances at auto shows and county fairs began to pour in.
After the appearance at the Silverdome, word spread and throughout the '80s guys of Chandler's ilk repeated his success on a state or regional level. The first sanctioned monster truck competition took place in 1984. Bigfoot no longer could jump over a couple of heaps and come crashing down. Instead, he had to drag race head-to-head with his competitors. The United States Hot Rod Association created the first traveling series for the big beasts in 1987.