Former St. Louis Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce was a defense killer on the playing field. Off it, he is a quiet, gentle soul who spends a lot of time embracing, discussing and sharing his spirituality and helping others in any way he can. Many called him “The Reverend.” Former Rams teammate Steven Jackson called him the “Gospel Gangster.”
Growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s inner city, Bruce, who is one of 15 children (he’s No. 13), had many influences around him in his life, both positive and negative. His family was always extremely close with his parents providing much of the positive influence. His father owned a roofing business for more than 40 years and made sure his family was always taken care of. His mother was ahead of her time in living right; Bruce described her as being, “organic in her own way.” He added with a laugh, “I introduced myself to McDonald’s.”
Then, in 2005, while recovering from a toe injury, Bruce noticed that his body wasn’t responding the way it used to and he decided a change was needed. He turned to the one place he turns to for direction in his life, regardless of the situation.
“I picked up my bible and started reading about what they ate,” Bruce recalled. “Then I found Jordan Rubin’s book, The Maker’s Diet. I started practicing what’s taught in the book; what works with the body. I was kind of educated on diet and nutrition. I changed everything, the way I ate, the intake of prescription medications and I started my intake of green leafy vegetables, fruits, juices.”
Bruce, who was in his 11th NFL season at the time, went on to play an additional five years.
In 2006, Bruce, who always had a natural inclination to help others, from his teammates to families and children who sought his help and guidance, knew it was time to do even more is his life. That inclination manifested itself in a more concrete way with the creation of The Isaac Bruce Foundation, which he founded in 2006. The foundation specifically focuses on the health, wellness, nutrition, fitness and education needs of children.
The foundation also provides one scholarship per year to a student in the Broward County (Florida) public schools and the University of Memphis. In total, since its inception, the foundation has bestowed more than $250,000 in grants and scholarships as well as to other groups it partners with such as Feed the Children and the St. Louis Dream Center.
Bruce is heavily involved, reading every scholarship application and presenting the awards himself. “I like hearing the people scream in the background,” he said of the calls he makes notifying the winners.
Although Bruce has returned to his home in Florida, the foundation remains in St. Louis and Bruce looks ahead to its continued growth. He enjoys his connection to the city that gave him such strong support throughout his NFL career and has pledged a long-term commitment to give back to the city. Almost 4,000 children have participated in Bruce’s annual football camps, which he oversees and attends every year.
While he is retired from the NFL, Bruce is not out of football. His life has come full circle. The former NFL Pro Bowler is coaching at his alma mater, Dillard High School. “I coach the wide receivers,” Bruce said. “They kept calling and I finally gave in. My first experience is I’m out and I’m teaching and I wanted to get on the phone and call (former Rams offensive coordinator and head coach) Mike Martz and apologize for every time I talked during meetings.”
He is experiencing a type of satisfaction from his coaching that he didn’t expect and much of it is based on the trust he earns from his young players.
“When I get them to trust me and run hard every time and their eyes light up and they see results, that’s exhilarating,” he said.
Asked if his new role as coach has lit a fuse to pursue that long term and possibly on a larger level, Bruce contemplates the question and responds, “Maybe in the future. Dreams tend to grow.”
For more information on The Isaac Bruce Foundation: www.isaacbruce.org