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Isaac Bruce: Forever Young

Posted Oct 9, 2009

For 16 seasons, Isaac Bruce has been the same guy every day to work – himself.

Not known for drawing extra attention, the 36-year-old future Hall of Fame wide receiver continues to play the game the way it was intended to be played – with class and a whole lot of skill.

Bruce’s impressive career includes accomplishments such as: four Pro Bowl appearances (’96, ’99, ’00, and ’01), one Super Bowl ring (XXXIV), 15,111 receiving yards (2nd all-time), 1,016 receptions (5th all-time) and 91 touchdowns (9th all-time).

With a résumé worthy of a first-ballot induction into Pro Football’s Hall of Fame, Bruce isn’t quite satiated with what he’s done; the passion to play on Sundays hasn’t left him quite yet.

“How much passion do I have? I still have a full tank,” Bruce said after a recent practice. “I’ll retire before my passion leaves me.”

Good thing he feels that way, Bruce leads all 49ers wide receivers in catches (13) and yards (167).

After signing with the division rival of the St. Louis Rams, the team he spent the first 14 years of his NFL career, Bruce has been a steady weapon for the 49ers passing game.

With new offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye stressing a run-first offense, Bruce has also been a major component to the team’s success on the ground with his blocking prowess. At this point of his career, Bruce feels like he’s able to contribute both as a pass catcher and a run blocker.

He also feels like he can still do pretty much do everything he’s done over the course of his career.

“I don’t believe I’ve slowed down to point where I’m not productive on a football field. I’d definitely retire before that happens,” Bruce said.

Through four games in 2009, he has certainly been productive in allowing Frank Gore and Glen Coffee to have success in the ground game. And while most think of Bruce as a prominent wide receiver, he’s proud of his blocking.

“I’ve always consider myself a pretty good blocker, its part of the job.” he explained. “My job is to make sure the guy over me doesn’t make the tackle. Whether I knock him down or get in between him and the ball carrier, I’ve done my job.”

Bruce was instrumental in Gore’s career-day against the Seattle Seahawks in the second week of the season. But he recalled a game in 2000 when he had 13 knockdown blocks.

Not bad considering, he’s 6-foot, 188-pounds – most offensive linemen would love that kind of success.

When he’s not sealing the perimeter by blocking opposing defensive backs, Bruce has done nothing to damage his reputation as one of the game’s best route-runners. In 20 games since joining the 49ers, he’s caught 74 passes for 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns.

After playing with two talented quarterbacks for most of his career in Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger while in St. Louis, Bruce has found a comfort level with his new quarterback, Shaun Hill.

“The three of them are right-handed and they’ve won a lot of football games,” Bruce joked of the similarities between the three.

But what makes Hill standout to Bruce is his “uniqueness.”

“Shaun’s a pretty unique guy. And, it’s very rare that everyone on the offense likes the quarterback,” Bruce revealed.

With Hill’s intangibles and leadership qualities, Bruce and the rest of the 49ers instantly believed in their signal caller.

“Can I trust him to make the plays he’s supposed to make? I can do that. He makes his plays,” Bruce said.

As long as the two continue to play together, Bruce said the relationship will only continue to grow.

“I think our timing has been pretty good, but it’s getting better.”

Bruce’s relationships in the locker room have also strengthened with the rest of his teammates and the rest of the wide receivers.

Although he’s played almost as long as the other six receivers on the roster combined, Bruce has plenty of valuable information to share with the group.

“He’s mostly shown me how to prepare for every game each week and how to prepare in the offseason,” second-year wideout Josh Morgan explained. “You have to listen to him he’s like a coach on the field.”

Because of Bruce’s influence, Morgan said he’s no longer eating fast food and has a personal chef.

“I’m a lot healthier than I was last year because of him,” Morgan said.

According to Morgan, Bruce has been the same guy the entire time he’s known the veteran, but on Sundays, that’s a different story.

“When he goes out there on Sunday, you can see that feisty side to him. But other than that, he’s the same guy all the time.”

Bruce has been vocal with his fellow wide receivers, but the soft-spoken wideout has picked his moments to share his insight.

“The very moments when I need to use words, I do,” Bruce said. “Truth be known, I think I talk a lot actually. I’m just not as loud as most people. Any conversation that we have, I cherish it, because playing football together, you develop relationships.”

Bruce also cherishes the 49ers quest to get back to the playoffs. In the offseason he said he came back to the team to make a playoff run. Asked if he had wavered on those feelings at all, Bruce answered:

“I don’t think one training camp and a couple of weeks into the season would change what I was believing. Like I said back then, I’ve seen teams go from 4-12 to win a Super Bowl and I’ve been a part of that situation. It’s really not surprising.

“I’ve always believed in the San Francisco 49ers organization because I’ve played against them. I always knew what they brought to the table.”

With what Bruce has brought to the table, the 49ers are much better off than they were before without him.