One of the best receivers to ever play the game, a future Hall of Famer, a mentor. All are words used by Isaac Bruce's teammates to describe him. To be called these words in the NFL, there's no doubt one must produce on the football field, but not many do it in the way Bruce does.
In his 16th year in the NFL and with the career he has had to date, many would think Bruce would have a lot to talk about - to the media, fans and his teammates. But Isaac Bruce has his own way of showing his greatness - through his actions, not his words.
If you were to follow Bruce on a normal day at work, you'd more often than not find him keeping to himself, deep in thought, and focused on his task at hand - football.
"He is very quiet, but his actions are louder than any words he could say," said 49ers wide receiver Jason Hill. "He leads by example. Some of the examples we can't follow because some of the things he does we can't do. But Ike is a gamer. Ike is a good mentor. He does everything right."
Bruce gained immediate respect from his teammates, becoming the first wide receiver to win the 49ers most prestigious Len Eshmont award and only the second player (Tony Parish, 2002) in franchise history to win the award during his first year with the team. The award is voted on by the players and is given to the player who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont.
Whether it's running the perfect route or guiding younger teammates through life, Bruce is an example for many around the league.
"All the coaches who have ever coached him, and all the coaches who ask me about playing with him, that is all they rave about, his route running," said 49ers second year wide receiver Josh Morgan. "They say they have never seen anyone run like that, except Jerry Rice. They say he is one of the greatest route runners of all time."
Between the lines, the wide receiver has gained more than 15,000 yards and scored 91 touchdowns during his career. He currently ranks No. 2 all-time on the NFL Receiving Yards list and No. 5 on the NFL Receptions list with more than 1,000 career catches. He is a four-time Pro Bowl selection, including three consecutive (1999-2001) appearances, and holds one Super Bowl ring.
While his career numbers and reputation for picture-perfect routes and big plays are renowned, Bruce's impact on the football field will one day, whenever his time is up in the NFL, bring him to Canton, Ohio along with the other greats of the game.
Bruce's impact doesn't stop on the football field though, and neither does his modesty. Bruce is well known throughout the league for his contributions off the field, although he doesn't promote it. As with football, Bruce doesn't do it for the media attention, he does it because he truly believes it is his calling.
During the 2008 season, Bruce assisted with a Habitat for Humanity build in Santa Clara, the launch of a San Francisco 49ers Fitness Zone at a local middle school, and a 49ers/United Way Hometown Huddle project to remodel a community center in an impoverished area of San Francisco. At each event, he arrived on time, worked hard, and stayed until the project was completed.
"What I do on the football field is bring entertainment to other people, give them a chance to get away from the daily grind and watch an exciting football game with exciting players," Bruce said. "What I do in the community is my service, it is who I am."
Last year, he received the President's Volunteer Service Award and was recognized by the 49ers as a winner of the Community Relations GOLD AWARD for Service to the Community for his outstanding community efforts.
In 2005, Bruce started the Isaac Bruce Foundation, focusing on health, wellness, nutrition, fitness and education. Through his foundation, he reaches out to youth and teaches them the importance of a healthy lifestyle, especially the importance of education, at an early age.
Bruce's true passion is his foundation. According to the Foundation's Executive Director Tiffani Wilson Burris, "The foundation is very close to Isaac's heart and something that he lives by every day. It is a life-long commitment for him."
Most recently, Bruce and the Isaac Bruce Foundation joined the fight to stem the high school dropout crisis by teaming up with Reach Out St. Louis. In the United States, one in three students drop out of high school before graduation, and one in two minority students drop out before graduation.
The Isaac Bruce Foundation has also teamed up with the Healthy Youth Partnership, a growing collaborative of more than 60 community organizations to improve the health and wellness of youth and families in the Bi-State region.
In addition, each year since 1996, Isaac has provided 10 tickets to each home game to deserving youth both with his time in St. Louis and now with the 49ers.
Currently, Bruce still spends much of his time giving back to the community. On his one day off during the week in season, you will find Isaac helping out with one of the 49ers organizations Community Tuesday events or at a community event of his own.
The unique part about Bruce is, during these events, he's always there for the kids and the community, never for the accolades.
"I remember being at an appearance with him a couple of years ago and a young child walked up with his eyes really big and he handed Isaac the item that he wanted him to sign," Wilson said. "Isaac greeted him by name and asked how he was doing and the child looked at him completely shocked and said, 'How did you know my name?'"
Wilson said Bruce responded, "Didn't you come to another signing about two years ago? Why wouldn't I remember your name? You remembered mine, didn't you?' I think that pretty much sums up Isaac Bruce."
Bruce's accomplishments on- and off-the-field inspire many, if not the entire league to look in the mirror and want to do the same.
When asked how Isaac Bruce will be remembered once he leaves the league, 49ers running back Frank Gore responded saying "One of the best receivers to ever play in the NFL - and a great man."
Bruce has clearly made his impact in the National Football League, and every day is making his impact in the community at large without asking for credit, recognition or attention. He simply does it because of his great heart, passion and commitment to being an exceptional football player and even better man.
DON'T TELL ME SHOW
"I think what he is is a guy that knows exactly who he is. He knows what it takes. He's been there, done that. There's nothing new under the sun for him. When you're sure of who you are, and you've achieved just about everything there is, you can just kind of take a step back from all of the games and all of the other stuff and just be yourself. I think that really sets him apart from a lot of guys, because some guys never really are comfortable with who they are and their place in this game."
But Isaac Bruce is comfortable, and his place might soon be reserved in Canton, OH among the greatest players who've ever played.
The future Hall of Famer ranks No. 2 on the NFL's all-time receiving yards list behind Jerry Rice. He also has more than 1,000 career receptions and more than 15,000 career receiving yards.
Bruce also holds three Rams' single-season records, including most receiving yards (1,781), most receptions (119) and most consecutive 100-yard receiving games (six). In addition, he is the Rams' career leader in receptions, receiving yards, 100-yard receiving games, 1,000-yard seasons, touchdown receptions, postseason receiving yards, and is the only player in team history with four 100-yard receiving games in the postseason.
He's won a championship - in fact, he caught the game winning 73-yard touchdown pass from QB Kurt Warner with under two minutes to play in the game to give the Rams' a 23-16 win in Super Bowl XXXIV.
And still, at age 37, Bruce manages to produce. Last year, in his first season with the 49ers he led all receivers with 837 yards and 7 touchdowns.
It was the most production by a 49ers wide receiver since 2003.
For more information on the Isaac Bruce Foundation call 314-369-4074.