Chuck Muncie, a three-time All-Pro running back known for his imposing size and powerful stye, has died at the age of 60.
The cause of death was a heart attack, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
After a standout career at Cal during which he came in second place in Heisman Trophy voting as a senior, Muncie went to the Saints as the third overall pick in the 1976 NFL draft. His best season in New Orleans came in 1979, when he carried 238 for 1,198 yards and 11 touchdowns, and also caught 40 passes for 308 yards.
But Muncie frequently expressed his unhappiness in New Orleans, and he was traded to the Chargers during the 1980 season. Muncie was even better in San Diego than he had been in New Orleans, and his presence as a runner bolstered an already strong Chargers offense. In 1981 he led the league with 19 touchdowns, and he was outstanding in the playoffs after that season: He rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown as the Chargers beat the Dolphins 41-38 in one of the greatest games ever played, and he was one of the few Chargers who played well the following week, when San Diego lost in freezing conditions in Cincinnati, gaining 94 yards on the ground while the Chargers lost to the Bengals 27-7 in the AFC Championship Game.
Muncie’s career came to an abrupt end in 1984 when Commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended him for the remainder of the season when he tested positive for cocaine after Week One. Although Muncie tried to come back with the Vikings in 1985, he quickly quit, saying he had issues in his personal life that he needed to get in order.
In 1989, Muncie was sentenced to 18 months in prison for selling cocaine. After he was released, however, he turned his life around, and spent his later years working with children, counseling adults who were struggling with drug addiction, and encouraging gang members to lead more productive lives. (One of Muncie’s pet projects was providing tattoo removal services for former gang members who wanted to get gang markings off their skin so they’d look presentable in job interviews.)
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2008, Cal’s team doctor mentioned that Muncie made a point of being there any time an athlete at his alma mater who was going through a tough time could use some words of wisdom from someone who had been there before.
“Whenever we call, he makes himself available,” Dr. Bill Coysh said. “That’s what’s incredible about him. This is not a paid position. He does it because that’s how he is.”
That’s who Chuck Muncie was, a good running back who fell on hard times, but in the end lived the life of a good man.