Should Bruce Have Picked Another Number to Wear?

Russ Loede mentioned in a comment on my previous column that the newly-signed Isaac Bruce was given consent by Jerry Rice to wear his #80 next season.

Bruce has sported the number since he entered the NFL 14 years ago. There have been numerous stories over the years regarding athletes’ infatuations with certain numbers, the loyalty they show to certain digits and the measures they will take to wear a specific number.

The San Jose Mercury News reported on Monday that Jerry Rice let Bruce know that wearing #80 was fine by him. Rice said that he has always respected Bruce and that it was only right for him to offer Bruce his number, the same way Steve Largent offered Rice his #80 when Rice signed with the Seattle Seahawks.

The problem is that the #80 49ers jersey is synonymous with Rice. Bruce, no matter how well he plays in his tenure with the 49ers, will never replace that. The number isn’t just important to the player; it’s important to the organization. Even though a jersey number is an individualized manner of identification (jersey numbers were created to identify players), the jersey that the number rests on represents something greater.

The jersey, the 49er jersey, represents the glory that the franchise has experienced. It represents the five Super Bowls the franchise has won, as many as any other. And Rice was apart of three of those teams. He holds virtually every significant receiving record and is widely regarded as the greatest ever at his position.

Despite short stints with Seattle and the Oakland Raiders, Rice is distinctly a 49er. His jersey number, 80, is representative of his greatness, but, more importantly, his team’s legacy.
For those reasons, Bruce should respectfully decline Rice’s offer and find one of nine other numbers in the 80s.

9 Comments on "Should Bruce Have Picked Another Number to Wear?"

  1. Absolutely Bruce should decline, just like Jerry Rice should have declined to wear #80 with the Seahawks. And no….Largent didn’t offer the #, Bob Whitsitt brokered the deal, telling Largent that Rice wanted it. Largent has too much class to make a big deal of it, but it was a HUGE deal to Seahawks fans. And before y’all get your panties in a bunch about how Steve Largent was no Jerry Rice, you’re right. Largent did all his work earning a trip to Canton without Montana and Young tossing him the ball.

  2. Thanks for the clarification with Largent. An article I read describing that situation stated that Largent had offered the number.

    BTW, Largent was no Rice.

  3. Your right Largent is not Rice….Largent did not get arrested at a ????????….or milk his has last few years….

  4. How can you bash the 2nd Greatest Football Player of All-Time? (Walter Payton – SWEETNESS is #1)

    Forget about his “private/personal” life decisions – we are talking football here!

    And who cares about a NUMBER! We are talking #’s here not football – Give me a Break! It should not MATTER Who throws on a jersey that has the #80 stitched on to the back of it with their name above it – you PLAY for the team you represent on the front of your jersey! Why does everyone seem to make a Big DEAL out of nothin’?

    Whether it be Rice or Bruce, have Isaac wear #80 and Accept the offer and have a great year carrying on the “vaunted” No. 80.

    Jerry RICE was more VITAL to the careers of Montana and Young then Montana and Young were for the Successful Carrer of Rice!

    Russ

  5. I think the big difference is that Largents jersey was already retired so I don’t think Jerry Rice owns the number.Blame it on the niners org. or whatever but I don’t think Rice has any say.

  6. Russ,

    I just believe deeply in keeping the integrity of the history of certain franchises.
    Numbers aren’t just numbers when you consider the impact of the players who wore those numbers.
    Michael Jordan and 23 with the Bulls can never be worn again.
    Just like Ruth and 3 with the Yankees and John Elway and 7 with the Broncos. And now Favre and 4 with the Packers. You get the idea.

    #80 for the 49ers should never be worn again, due to the lasting legacy Rice left with the franchise. There are plenty of other numbers for Bruce. His mark was left with the Rams. He doesn’t need to disrupt Rice’s legacy with the 49ers, so that’s why I feel he should respectfully turn down Rice’s offer.

  7. Contrary to previous posts, there was a lot of stink in Seattle over Rice wearing 80. A lot of fans, and sports radio, supported Rice wearing the number.

    It’s not like there isn’t precident. Dilfer wore Brodie’s 12. And 80 isn’t even retired, Bruce doesn’t need anyone’s permission to wear it, not even Rice’s. It’s classy that Rice offered it to Bruce, and Bruce should wear it.

  8. the above should read “there was NOT a lot of stink”…

  9. prescient precedent president | September 26, 2008 at 9:23 am | Reply

    Dilfer’s wearing of Brodie’s 12 was not precedent as it happened afterwards.

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