When the news came down Tuesday night that the Rams were moving back to Los Angeles, Isaac Bruce was bombarded with texts, emails, and tweets from former teammates.
“Just guys expressing what happened when we played there in St. Louis,” Bruce said. “Just some sentiments, just memories — sharing memories.
“It went from being sad to a little humorous, because you’ll start quoting things, and things that happened in the locker rooms. Things that happened during and after games.”
It was almost analogous to a funeral, which may be apropos, because Bruce and his former Rams teammates were talking about what very well may be the death of professional football in St. Louis.
Bruce has a unique perspective because he played 13 years here for the Rams — longer than anyone else. He was the first “St. Louis” Rams star, and also the last “Los Angeles” Ram left on the roster, having played his rookie season for the LA Rams in 1994, the organization’s last in southern California before moving to the Midwest.
“I did enjoy LA when I was there,” Bruce said.
But he made his name in St. Louis, and the city will always hold a special place for him.
“Fan support was just phenomenal, from the very first time I played a football game here,” Bruce said. “We didn’t play a preseason game that whole 1995 (preseason) in the city of St. Louis.”
The Rams played their first regular season game on the road as well, at Green Bay. And then they came home.
“We burst on the scene that second week of the season in 1995,” Bruce said. “And what I saw really made me feel welcomed into the NFL as far as the fan support was concerned. Most of my games prior to that time, we didn’t have much fan support in Los Angeles.”
Although Stan Kroenke’s relocation application criticized a lack of fan support in St. Louis, that wasn’t what Bruce or any of his teammates saw during their time here.
“I don’t know about what numbers Kroenke was using to complain about that,” said former Rams center Andy McCollum. “I have no idea. I know when we were here, especially when we were having so much success, it was as good as anywhere in the country.
“And even lately, when we were not winning as much, I think there’s still a lot of fan support. It’s a shame. I really feel for them.”
Few Rams played as long as McCollum did in St. Louis. For nine seasons, from 1999 through 2007, he called St. Louis home as one of the “Doughnut Bros.” — the nickname given to McCollum and longtime Rams right guard Adam Timmerman. McCollum started 109 games as a Ram over those nine years.
Even before his playing career ended following a one-year stint with Detroit in 2008, McCollum decided to settle down in the Gateway City with his wife and children. The McCollums live in the Eureka area and have three boys and three girls, ages 7 to 17.
McCollum is a financial planner for Resource One Advisors. He helps coach the Eureka High football team and has been involved in coaching the Eureka youth football program for about 10 years.
“We just liked it here,” McCollum said. “My wife and I both grew up in Ohio. It’s a similar feel here. Just a great, great place to raise a family. It’s nothing more complicated than that.”
As such that puts McCollum in a unique group of Rams who not only played in St. Louis but made the area their permanent home. Some of the others include Aeneas Williams, Grant Williams, and Orlando Pace.
As silly as it may sound, since the relocation vote came down McCollum said many of his friends and neighbors have asked him if he’s moving to LA.
“That ain’t gonna happen,” McCollum said. “It’s not my kind of town.”
It’s Kroenke’s kind of town, a place where the Rams owner can add to his already vast fortune and be hailed as the man who returned football to Los Angeles.
(This coming, of course, 21 years after he helped move football out of LA to greener financial pastures in St. Louis with then majority owner Georgia Frontiere.)
Bruce and his other former teammates and coaches from the Greatest Show era obviously feel for the fans of St. Louis. And they recognize the work done by the stadium task force.
“They once again showed their fortitude, their courage, putting a plan together in so short a time,” Bruce said. “And letting America know that St. Louis is a place that can cause Fortune 500 companies, businesses, to flourish. And also professional teams.
“It’s just unfortunate that the business side of it kind of fell on our heads like it did 21 years ago to Los Angeles.”
But Bruce is a positive thinker if nothing else. He’s aware of the rich tradition of the Rams in Los Angeles, and realizes that playing in such a large market could be an exciting time for the current players.
He plans to open up a branch office, so to speak, of the Isaac Bruce Foundation in LA, while keeping the foundation active in St. Louis.
And he doesn’t think the legacy of the Greatest Show will be lost or overlooked now that the franchise is once again calling Los Angeles home.
“I see it this way,” Bruce said. “I don’t think Eric Dickerson’s legacy was tainted at all (by the move to St. Louis). Guys like Marshall (Faulk). Guys like Torry (Holt). Like Orlando. These guys are NFL legends. So what they did, and their body of work, is legendary in the NFL in itself.”
One of those Rams legends, Pace, isn’t so sure.
“It’s funny. Me and Torry Holt were just having a conversation about that,” Pace said. “I think one of our concerns is what we did here, the fun we had, that championship that we won here — hopefully it doesn’t get lost in the move to LA. Because we put a lot of smiles on people’s faces, and we enjoyed each other.”
Bruce is doing his best to make sure that legacy lives in St. Louis. Although plans are in its infancy, and there are many details to be ironed out, he hopes to put on a charity game at the Edward Jones Dome involving all former “St. Louis” Rams.
“We want to put together a flag football game, autograph session, for the city of St. Louis — the fans, so they can come out and see the guys up close and personal once again,” Bruce said. “It may be a while before everyone’s together like that again.
“So they can drive to the dome as opposed to flying to another city to see these people.”