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Hall of Fame look ahead: Isaac Bruce

2/6/2014

ST. LOUIS -- On Saturday night, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced that former St. Louis Rams safety Aeneas Williams is part of this year's class of inductees. Williams isn't likely to be remembered as much for his time with the Rams as he was with the Arizona Cardinals, but for those wanting a player with a longer track record of playing for the Rams to get in, the time is coming soon.

The Greatest Show on Turf version of the Rams had no shortage of Hall of Fame candidates. Running back Marshall Faulk was the first to go in, but now the rest of the group is coming eligible. That should make for some tough decisions for the committee in the next couple of years but there are multiple Rams with a legitimate case to get in.

On Wednesday, we took a look at the case for quarterback Kurt Warner. Now it’s time for the original St. Louis Ram, wide receiver Isaac Bruce:

Were I the only one casting the vote on whether Isaac Bruce should go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it would be a slam dunk. Bruce would be in on the first ballot and finally receive the recognition that often managed to find others during his playing career.

Alas, I don't have any votes and Bruce's road to Canton figures to be a difficult one despite what looks to be a strong case. A St. Louis original, Bruce is revered in the city for his career devotion to the franchise, quiet excellence on the field and endless contributions to the community. But Bruce's reserved personality came smack in the middle of the era of the diva wide receiver.

While Bruce put up numbers right in line with the likes of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and other big statistic contemporaries, he rarely got the same amount of attention because he handled his business without making a spectacle about it.

Potentially, that attitude could work in his favor when his case is presented. In terms of pure numbers, Bruce absolutely deserves to be right in the mix. In 223 career games, Bruce posted 1,024 receptions (seventh all time) for 15,208 yards (fourth) and 91 touchdowns (10th) on his way to four Pro Bowl appearances. Bruce never earned a spot as a first team All Pro but there were certainly seasons (especially 1995) in which he deserved it but was denied because of his under the radar personality.

Alas, there are two factors that are going to complicate matters for Bruce compared to players like Faulk, Warner and tackle Orlando Pace.

First, Bruce's career years came right at the outset of the era in which receivers began racking up big numbers. While Bruce's numbers exceed many of those other receivers, this is the era of the passing game where video game numbers were commonplace.

Second, because of that abundance of productive wideouts, there's a long line forming amongst receivers for spots in the Hall. It's good news for Bruce that a wideout has made it to Canton in each of the past two years with Cris Carter going in last year and Andre Reed set to go in this year. Still, Marvin Harrison and Tim Brown are waiting their turn and both have similar production to Bruce. If Bruce doesn't get in soon, he will be faced with an even larger logjam including guys like Owens, Moss and Bruce's running mate Torry Holt.

Bruce does, however, have a trump care over the rest of those candidates in the form of his game-winning touchdown catch in the final minutes of Super Bowl XXXIV. One play does not a Hall of Famer make but it could certainly serve as a sort of tiebreaker should the need for one arise.

Realistically, it's unlikely the Rams will get all of their cornerstones of the Greatest Show on Turf in at the same time. Pace and Warner are probably better bets to get in right away than Bruce and both could get in on the first try next year. Bruce's wait figures to be a little longer. I do believe Bruce will get in but a bit more patience than was required for Faulk, or will be needed for Pace or Warner, is likely going to be required.