Chuck Muncie, All Pro Running Back Dies at 60

Chuck Muncie

The New Orleans Saints announced today the three time pro-bowl running back, Chuck Muncie, died of a heart attack Tuesday at age 60.

Muncie was a big, hard running back, whose success on the field was diminished by his personal problems off the field.

After his graduation from Cal, where he was runner-up in the Heisman Trophy race, he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints.  He played for them from 1976-80.  He was unhappy with the Saints, and requested a trade.  He was sent to the San Diego Chargers from 1980-84.  He rushed for 6,702 yards and 71 touchdowns, but his career ended in 1984, when Commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended Muncie for the remainder of the season when he tested positive for cocaine after the first regular-season game.

In 1985, the Minnesota Vikings have him another chance.  But he walked away, deciding to work on his personal problems.

But his problems continued.  In 1989, he was arrested for selling cocaine.  He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

He did eventually turn his life around.  He began the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation, which counseled young people and gang members on decision-making.

“I’m a very selfish person,” Muncie told the Los Angeles Times in 2008, “and I like to feel good. One way I could make myself feel good was by helping other people. I learned, over a period of time, that was something that worked for me.”

At Cal, Muncie rushed for 3,052 career yards, still fifth-best in school history. He ran for 1,460 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior, earning Pac-8 Player of the Year honors. He was a two-time first-team all-conference selection. His second place finish in Heisman Trophy voting was behind two-time winner Archie Griffin of Ohio State.

After being drafted in the first round by New Orleans in 1976, he became the Saints’ first ever 1000 yard rusher.  He ran for 1,198 yards in 1979. That season, he became the first Saints player to go to the Pro Bowl, earning MVP honors in the game.

Muncie’s best season was in 1981, when he led the NFL with 19 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,144 yards, helping the Chargers reach the AFC Championship Game for the second straight season.

In 2008, Cal’s team doctor, Dr. Bill Coysh, told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that Muncie was always available for any player from his alma mater who was going through ‘difficult times’.

“Whenever we call, he makes himself available,” Dr. Coysh said. “That’s what’s incredible about him. This is not a paid position. He does it because that’s how he is.”

For all of his troubles as a young man, Muncie should be remembered as a talented football player, who turned the darker side of his life around.  In the end, his epitaph should simply read; “He was a good man”.

James Turnage

The Guardian Express

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