An oral history of Rams legend Isaac Bruce’s junior college days in Los Angeles and how they shaped it

Bruce arrived in Los Angeles in 1990. Originally scheduled to play for Purdue University after graduating from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Dillard High, circumstances instead sent him to LA to attend West Los Angeles College.

Bruce: “My very first impression (of Los Angeles) was, this is home, because it looked like South Florida. It was a lot cooler. I was in West Coast rap at the time. I mean, I think it had started to take So I kind of got a visual of these guys the way they were talking about Los Angeles and California as a whole, you know, in their songs and everything. . this is where I used to live, this is where the stadium is right now next to Arbor Vitae. How many times have I seen this and wrote this on letters before there have cell phones and texting? But it’s funny, because SoFi (Stadium) is sitting right on that street. So yeah, I just felt like it was an extension of South Florida, to the extent that it was a melting pot. A lot of different origins and cultures. And I fit in perfectly. “

Bruce lived with three other people, including a teammate, Sam Rogers, in a quadruple dormitory on the Northrop University campus that had a common room but no kitchen.

Bruce: “The big planes straight from LAX would fly right overhead, about 12,000 feet above our heads. It was fun man. My transportation was the green bus to Sepulveda. I took the green to Lincoln. , then I hop on number three, (That would take me to Pico. I go down to Pico, in class, I stay on campus all day until the end of practice, until ‘It’s time to come home, man. So that really tested your courage to see if you wanted football to be your profession or in this industry. “

The general conditions weren’t the best either.

Rogers: “These were the conditions that drove 98% of the players to leave. Isaac and I were the only two, we stayed in it. We stayed in the dorms, basically hiding in the dorms where we weren’t supposed to be until. ‘until he got to Santa Monica (college), and they helped him find a place to stay and I moved to a friend of mine’s house. “

Bruce has had “many opportunities to go home and say just forget it,” but he credits the grace of God for pushing him through those difficult times, which besides the drive to campus also included difficulty in being able to eat every day.

Rogers, who transferred to Colorado after their only season together: “When I left for Colorado he was still there, so he was still fighting. He had no one to lean on. Like back then, we all leaned on each other as much as we did. We created a fellowship that, whoever sent money to parents, we all joined in. or went to other places, Isaac and I were the only two. But he held on and it shows his character, why he played that way. And coming from a large family. He had (14) siblings, so that would make you behave like no other. “

In Bruce’s first year, he met 14 guys from different states including Texas and Michigan (Rogers), as well as Florida and Colorado.

Between his own background and his skills, it didn’t take long for him to make an impression.

Rogers: “The first thing I remember about Isaac is meeting him before the football pitch – a lot of us are from out of town, and we would sit there and talk and understand. the culture of each and where they came from. The first thing I remember him, (was he) telling me about Florida and some food they ate there, and one of them was called Conch. And I’m like, “What the hell is Conch?” That was my first impression of him, giving us the Florida vibe. And then on the football field, when I saw him run for the first time, I said, ‘Oh, this guy is special.’ “

Marlin Briscoe, West Los Angeles College wide receivers coach and Bruce’s first coach at college: “Isaac, he was ahead of his time. When I first saw him as an athlete he was running on a track and that was before I knew who he was. Rob Hager, who was there. ‘head coach at the time said,’ It’s Isaac Bruce right there. ‘ And I look, and I see this kid with that perfect stride, that you would see in a professional field. And I said, ‘This is the kid you were talking about? He said,’ Yes ​​sir. ‘is just the beginning.’ “

Bruce had a calm demeanor, but this should not be mistaken for a lack of confidence or direction. For Rogers, it was the combination of confidence and arrogance that made Bruce so special.

Rogers: “He beat our DBs so bad, because I was a defensive player, and one of the coaches, I’ll never forget, Coach Porter came up there and said, ‘That’s how you do! You must enter! ‘So he lined up against Isaac and Isaac knocked him down on his tail.

In addition to learning under the tutelage of former AFL quarterback and NFL wide receiver Briscoe, Bruce has honed his craft in other ways as well.

According to Rogers, many Olympic track and field players and athletes came to train at their junior college because it was located in Culver City, a central area of ​​California.

Bruce: “When it comes to football, Los Angeles has given you the opportunity to improve your craft, which was football for me, throughout the year. I have had the opportunity to walk roads with guys who were playing Canadian football at the time, to learn from them I had the opportunity to play against guys who played Canadian football as a defensive back. At all levels, from high school to college in going through college, to guys who were pros at the time, and I felt like it really helped me.These guys whenever we could it was special for me, man. “

Rogers and Briscoe both used “smooth” to describe Bruce – that’s what Rogers said he and his teammates called Bruce that because Bruce executed his routes so smoothly and precisely.

Briscoe: “He just illuminated what a kid should be, especially at this level of play, who would be a freshman, a freshman at West LA College. And he was above the talent ladder. The only problem with Isaac we don’t have We didn’t have someone who could complement Isaac’s abilities.

As a result, Bruce transferred to Santa Monica City College, where he finished the 1991 season with 42 receptions for 677 yards and seven touchdowns to win all conference honors. He went on to obtain a scholarship from the State of Memphis (now the University of Memphis).

Bruce: “When I went to Santa Monica City College, coach Dave Burrell – he had experience at UCLA. He was the post coach there for a while. to be his guardian, he really helped my game too. “

Bruce recorded 39 receptions for 532 yards and five touchdowns in his first season at Memphis State in 1992, then totaled 74 receptions for 1,054 yards and seven touchdowns in his second and final season in 1993 – a solid performance that left him. led to be chosen 33rdin the second round by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1994 NFL Draft.

Rogers, meanwhile, went to the Buffalo Bills in the same round, picking No.64 overall.

Rogers went on to play 10 seasons in the NFL, Bruce 16, Bruce spending 14 of his 16 NFL seasons in the horns, racking up 942 receptions for 14,109 yards and 84 touchdowns en route to being inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame. in Canton, Ohio as a member of its class of 2020.

For Bruce, those early years in Los Angeles remain a defining period in his life that played a huge role in shaping his future.

Bruce: “It’s definitely how to adjust mid-term. I wanted to go from Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale to Purdue University and start my college degree, but that didn’t happen at home, to be honest. , I had a great time. If I could eat regularly, and I mean have a guaranteed meal every night, I would have enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up, I wouldn’t have I wanted to get past 18, just be where I was. But honestly it taught me the value of a dollar, how we can see the times our parents made sacrifices, up to putting money here, or put money for it over here. I learned that really quickly when I was in college. “

He’s also glad he didn’t give up when times got tough.

Bruce: “It’s cliché, but just keeping your eyes on the prize. I felt like the end result was way better than the current situation. And it was way better than the past situation. Moments and really check and see where you are, see where your feet were then and what progress you made. I mean, for me, I had finished two years of college. I got an AA degree. felt like had a decent football-wise training… So I just counted that cost, and having another opportunity to be recruited by Memphis while I was there, I felt like the progress I had made was far more important and more important than just standing up and quitting. “

The stadium where Bruce will be honored on Sunday in Inglewood is quite close to those landmarks from his college years. He says he sees it every time he flies.

The last time Bruce was in Los Angeles he had a rental car and actually drove to the dorms in Northrop and hit a few other familiar places.

Bruce: “I haven’t been to West LA, but I always go near Fox Hills Mall, because it was kind of like our hangout when we had the extra cash. Santa Monica is my place. try to get past Santa Monica as best I can. I can when I’m there. My coaches are obviously dead, but so many fond memories of that school and just playing there. And I can’t help but to go to Inglewood. I mean, the stadium is in Inglewood, Randy’s Donuts, The Forum, and I used to live right next to those places. These bring back great memories to me when I’m in LA. “


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