They showed up in old-school blue and yellow St. Louis Rams jerseys Saturday and the later blue and gold gear. They wore Rams t-shirts, Rams hats, gold Rams beads and everything in between.
They wore Kurt Warner’s No. 13, Marshall Faulk’s No. 28, Isaac Bruce’s familiar No. 80 and Torry “Big Game” Holt’s No. 81. New Pro Football Hall of Famer Orlando Pace’s No. 76 was another popular jersey choice as a crowd of close to 10,000 made its way into the stadium once known as the TWA Dome and Edward Jones Dome one more time for some Rams football.
Fans filled the air with the once-familiar “Bruuuuuuce” cheers for their favorite receiver and gave numerous standing ovations prior to the Isaac Bruce Foundation’s “Legends of the Dome” charity football game on Saturday.
“He opened the dome, he might as well close it, too,” former Rams defensive lineman D’Marco Farr said of Bruce, who organized the event as a thank-you to long-suffering Rams fans and to help his St. Louis-based charity. “I think I played with the best player I’ve ever seen in my life — and he happened to be my teammate.”
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Sure enough, the first touchdown pass of the game was a connection from Warner to Bruce, and was followed by the familiar “Bob & Weave” TD celebration. Just like the “Greatest Show on Turf” days when the Rams’ offensive was unstoppable and the team brought this city its only Super Bowl championship.
Warner’s Blue team lost 56-49 to Marc Bulger’s White squad in a wide-open flag football exhibition, but no one was paying attention to the score. This was a chance to see their beloved Rams players one more time at the dome.
“It was sweet,” Bruce said when asked the event lived up to his lofty expectations. “Guys had an opportunity to have some of their kids come out and see what they did for a living once upon a time, run out of that tunnel again with the smoke and everything. That was special and it was good, everybody enjoyed it from the players to the fans.”
Among the highlights were three touchdown catches by Holt and the sudden display of great hands and route-running at receiver by former Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins. Bulger’s first TD toss was an 80-yarder to Holt.
“I think Isaac could still play if he wanted to,” Bulger said. “Him and Torry and Dane (Looker) and shoot, Jeff Wilkins looks like he might have missed his calling, you know.”
“Isaac’s competitive, Torry’s competitive ... you’ve got a lot of guy out here that don’t like losing,” said former Rams linebacker Mike Jones, “so you knew it was going to get competitive sooner or later.”
Before the game, long autograph lines snaked around the field for a private autograph session for 1,000 people that paid $100 each for the privilege. Among the longest lines were for Warner, Bruce, Holt and former Rams coach Dick Vermeil.
At one point the line for Warner was so long they limited people from joining in at the end. But once the fans were told to leave the field, Warner and several other players kept signing and signing as long as organizers would let them.
Players and coaches later signed for more fans on the stadium concourse, posing for pictures and signing everything from photos and cards to footballs, helmets and just about anything else Rams-related.
“Getting Kurt and Isaac and all the guys back, it wasn’t just a bunch of guys that never played here,” Bulger said. “’There’s a bunch of memories for these guys and I don’t think anybody got hurt too bad. Guess we’ll see tomorrow. No one got carted off, so that was the best thing about it.”
Bulger said he hadn’t thrown a football for several years, but looked sharp against a defense that could best be describe as “passing friendly.”
After playing 20-minute quarters with a running clock in the first half, the quarters were only 15 minutes long in the second half.
“I think all of us weren’t disappointed,” Bulger said. “If you’d have been in the locker room at halftime, I was surprised it didn’t go shorter than 15 because there were some wounded soldiers in there on the floor.
“I didn’t want to sit down, I was afraid to sit down and not be able to get back up.”
Bulger wasn’t the only tired player on the field, either. Even Jones, whose tackle help preserve the Rams’ Super Bowl victory over the Tennessee Titans, was a bit worn out.
“It didn’t matter because after the first quarter you were done,” Jones said. “If they made it 20, 25 or 15 (minutes), you still were out of gas.”
Several players talked about the joy of being together in the locker room once again.
“We sit around and talk, find out how everybody’s doing,” Jones said. “It’s a little different because you haven’t seen them in a while and try to catch up on what your former teammates are doing that you haven’t talked to. But sooner or later, you get around to talking about when we used to play and all different things, get a good laugh and cracking jokes.”
Jones saw and felt the emotional reception he and the rest of the Rams got from the crowd at the dome on Saturday.
“I think this was great for everyone,” he said. “For the former players, for the fans, for the city of St. Louis. It was a great turnout and I think it helped with the closure to what’s going on.”