If you’ve been storing your St. Louis Rams gear in the back of the closet or in the basement, it’s time to break it out at least one more time.
Many of the greatest players during the Rams’ golden “Greatest Show on Turf” era are part of what figures to be a memorable and emotional “Legends of the Dome” benefit flag football game Saturday at the same downtown St. Louis dome fans used to pack to capacity.
Expect to be instantly transported back in time to the days when Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk and friends turned the dome into their personal offensive playground. The Rams won the only Super Bowl championship in franchise history during the 1999 season and also reached the Super Bowl two years later, losing to the New England Patriots.
“I think when the guys hit the stadium itself, entering the locker room, we’ll have that down time to reminisce,” said Bruce, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass against the Tennessee Titans to give the Rams their only Super Bowl victory in 2000. “Just to go through that tunnel again, to go run through that smoke again ... guys wearing their old numbers playing with those colors, I think the guys will enjoy it.”
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So will Rams fans, many of whom are still angry about the team’s move back to Los Angeles following the 2015 season. Owner Stan Kroenke can take the team and players back to California, but he can’t erase the special memories remain from the “Greatest Show on Turf” days.
In what was easily the greatest era of NFL football in St. Louis, which includes the Cardinals from 1960 to 1987, the Rams posted a 52-24 mark from 1999 through 2003. That included the 13-3 Super Bowl season in 1999, 14-2 in the Super Bowl runner-up season and 12-4 in 2003.
Just to go through that tunnel again, to go run through that smoke again ... guys wearing their old numbers playing with those colors, I think the guys will enjoy it.
Along with luminaries like Bruce, Hall of Fame offensive tackle Orlando Pace and quarterback Kurt Warner, the list of participating players Saturday includes Hall of Fame cornerback Aeneas Williams, receivers Torry Holt, Ricky Proehl and Az Hakim, quarterback Marc Bulger, linebackers Mike Jones and Pisa Tinoisamoa, defensive linemen D.Marco Farr, tight end Ernie Conwell, offensive linemen Adam Timmerman and Andy McCollum and defensive backs Dre Bly and Keith Lyle.
Approximately 40 former Rams and several coaches, including Jim Hanifan, have made commitments to participate.
“Guys were coming out of the woodwork, they were excited to hear about the game,” Bruce said. “It was easy once I started dialing some guys and inviting them. Other guys would hear about it and wanted to come, too. In the locker room we were all brothers and when one guy has even event, if you can make it and get there, by all means you do what you can to get there.”
Former Rams coaches Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz will be coaching the two teams. Pace, being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Aug. 6, will be honored at halftime.
Game time is 2 p.m. but plenty of activities will take place beforehand at the dome.
The 1,000 premium tickets priced at $100 each are sold out. That guaranteed those ticket holders an on-field autograph session before the game with at least 16 players along with a premium game ticket.
Tickets are still available priced at $15 and $20 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com. Tickets also can be purchased from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday at the dome, formerly known as the Edward Jones Dome.
Proceeds go to the St. Louis-based Isaac Bruce Foundation, which focuses on teaching area children the importance of education, physical fitness and education.
You could tell the difference when we played at home and when we played on the road. The fans were alive and electric, they were behind us 110 percent. To be able to perform again in the dome in front of those fans is very exciting.
Bruce talked about what it was like to be part of the Rams’ high-flying offense that took the NFL by storm.
The Rams led the NFL in scoring and offensive yardage for three straight seasons (1999 through 2001), scoring 500 or more points three times.
“Week-in and week-out we felt we could come into a game very confident, especially at home,” Bruce said. “You could tell the difference when we played at home and when we played on the road. The fans were alive and electric, they were behind us 110 percent.
“To be able to perform again in the dome in front of those fans is very exciting.”
Bruce said he got the idea for the fans after participating in a similar event to mark the final game played at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
“I had played in Candlestick many times; Joe Montana put it together and invited myself and many other players,” Bruce said. “I wanted to do it right here in dome, obviously under different circumstances.
“I wanted to do it in the dome and then open up the new downtown stadium, in St. Louis, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. This will be a thank-you for the great 21 seasons we were there and let the fans do their thing.”
Bruce isn’t sure exactly what to expect, but he thinks the fans are in for a treat.
“It’s going to be great,” Bruce said. “Putting together a game like this, it just wouldn’t be complete without the fans being there, because they were a significant and integral part of what we had going at that time. It was a distinct difference when teams came in to the dome to play the St. Louis Rams during the Greatest Show on Turf era. Our fans played a huge part of it and that’s a huge reason why we’re doing this game, to say thank-you.”
Asked to name the greatest play of the Greatest Show on Turf era, Bruce steered clear of his own Super Bowl-winning catch.
“I have many personal memories, but none bigger than Ricky Proehl’s catch in the corner of the end zone in the NFC Championship game against Tampa Bay. He made the biggest catch of my career, sending me and my teammates to the Super Bowl. There’s never going to be forgotten. Ricky’s catch is one, mine is two.”
While Bruce’s career began in 1994 with the Los Angeles Rams, he was part of the original St. Louis Rams team in 1995 and was one of the team’s best players until leaving here in 2007. The four-time Pro Bowl selection played his final two seasons with the 49ers, finishing his NFL career with 1,024 catches (ninth-best in NFL history) for 15,208 yards(fourth all-time) and 91 touchdowns (12th all-time).
The bulk of that incredible production (942 catches, 14,109 yards, 84 TDs) came in a Rams uniform. Bruce went over 1,000 yards in receptions eight times.
St. Louis will always occupy a special place in Bruce’s mind and heart.
“The city really embraced the team and football itself,” he said. “Just to be a part of a new (NFL) city, to be part of an organization that had an opportunity to press the reset button, to go through the trials and tribulations of not winning any football games. then adding winning players and winning coaches, to see the rise and to be at the top of the totem pole for a few years in the league ... it was amazing.
“We all benefited from it. We accomplished something together that will stay within the history of the NFL. We won a Super Bowl, but at the same time we had one of the best offense that has ever been a part of the NFL. I’m very proud of it and it’s something me and my teammates can always go back and discuss and reminisce about.”
Legends of the Dome Game
Where: The Dome (formerly the Edward Jones Dome) in downtown St. Louis
Tickets: $15 and $20; can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com. Tickets also can be purchased from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday at the dome, formerly known as the Edward Jones Dome.
11 a.m. — Premium ticket entry and autographs on field
12:30 p.m. — Gates open
1:30 p.m. — Player warmups
2 p.m. — Kickoff