Chuck Muncie

American football player (1953–2013)

American football player
Chuck Muncie
refer to caption
Muncie in 2008
No. 42, 46
Position:Running back
Personal information
Born:(1953-03-17)March 17, 1953
Uniontown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died:May 13, 2013(2013-05-13) (aged 60)
Perris, California, U.S.
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:227 lb (103 kg)
Career information
High school:Uniontown
College:Arizona Western (1972)
California (1973–1975)
NFL draft:1976 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3
Career history
  • New Orleans Saints (1976–1980)
  • San Diego Chargers (1980–1984)
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards:6,702
Rushing average:4.3
Rushing touchdowns:71
Receiving yards:2,323
Receiving touchdowns:3
Player stats at PFR

Harry Vance "Chuck" Muncie (March 17, 1953 − May 13, 2013)[1] was an American football running back who played for the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers in the National Football League (NFL) from 1976 to 1984. He was selected to the Pro Bowl three times, and tied the then-NFL season record for rushing touchdowns in 1981.

Muncie played college football for the California Golden Bears, setting numerous school records. In his senior year, he was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, given annually to the most outstanding college football player. Muncie was selected by the Saints in the first round of the 1976 NFL draft with the third overall pick. He became the first member of the Saints to be named to a Pro Bowl, and he was their first player to rush for 1,000 yards. He was traded to San Diego in 1980, starring in their high-scoring offense known as Air Coryell while being named to two additional Pro Bowls.

Muncie was considered one of the best running backs of his era until cocaine problems forced him into retirement. His drug problems eventually landed him in prison. Afterwards, he turned his life around by helping others through mentoring programs. He founded the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation.

Early life

Muncie was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area town of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, as one of six children in a football-playing family.[2][3] His three brothers called him "Chuck" because they did not like "Harry".[4] When he was six, Muncie was hit by a truck, breaking his thigh, leg, hip, and arm. He was in a cast from his neck to his toes for six months, and doctors warned that he might never be able to walk properly again.[5] Muncie recovered to become a multi-sport athlete, but the accident left his left leg shorter than his right. He compensated by playing with a shoe with an extra-thick sole.[1]

With Muncie's father disabled, Muncie's mother led the household and ensured that her kids were educated.[2] After seeing many of his relatives suffer from black lung disease and severe burns, Muncie had no desire to work in coal mines or the steel mills. He viewed athletics as his way out of Uniontown.[2][3] In his sophomore year at Uniontown Area High School, Muncie played football.[3] However, he quit playing after three games during his senior year when he suffered a concussion and his mother wanted him to stop playing.[6] He turned to basketball, averaging 18 points per game for the Uniontown Red Raiders and earning an athletic scholarship to play basketball for Arizona Western Junior College (now Arizona Western College).[2][6]

College career

While at Arizona Western, the football coach convinced Muncie to try out for football as well, and Muncie made the team. He never played basketball for the school, and he received a scholarship from the University of California, Berkeley after one year.[6]

At Berkeley, Muncie was a star running back for the California Golden Bears during the 1970s. He was big, fast and elusive, and was a good receiver. He was instrumental in Cal's NCAA-leading offense which propelled the team to the co-championship of the Pac-8 in 1975, and he became the first Golden Bear to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.[3] Muncie set then-school single-season records for rushing yards (1,460), all-purpose yards (1,871), and rushing touchdowns (13).[a][7] He was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy behind two-time winner Archie Griffin of Ohio State.[1] Muncie outrushed and outscored Griffin (1,357 yards and four touchdowns), but Ohio State was 11–0 and ranked No. 1 at the time.[8][9] Muncie was awarded the 1975 W.J. Voit Memorial Trophy as the outstanding football player on the Pacific Coast. He finished his college career with then-school career records for rushing yards (3,052), rushing touchdowns (32), 100-yard rushing games (15) and all-purpose yards (4,194).[b][7]

In his senior year in 1976, Muncie began using cocaine.[10] He graduated from Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts degree in social studies with a minor in business.[3] Muncie was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.[7]

Professional career

New Orleans Saints

Muncie was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 1976 NFL Draft with the third overall pick. He teamed with Saints' second round pick Tony Galbreath to form a backfield dubbed by then-coach Hank Stram as "Thunder and Lightning".[11]

Muncie played in the Pro Bowl after the 1979 season with the Saints and was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the game. He was the first Saints player named to the Pro Bowl and also was the first Saints player ever to reach the 1,000-yard rushing plateau when he ran for a then-team record of 1,198 yards in 1979.[1] Coming from the tolerant environment in Berkeley, it was a culture shock for Muncie in New Orleans, where his house and car were regularly vandalized by racists despite his living in a nice neighborhood.[3] He frequently expressed his unhappiness in New Orleans.[12] Saints coach Dick Nolan grew tired of Muncie being late for meetings and practices. After the Saints began the 1980 season with an 0–4 record, they traded Muncie to the 4–0 San Diego Chargers.[13]

San Diego Chargers

Muncie with the San Diego Chargers c. 1981

With the Chargers, Muncie was selected for the Pro Bowl twice as a member of their high-scoring Air Coryell offense.[14] He also appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated two additional times during the NFL Playoffs.[15] He enjoyed his best season in 1981, when he ran for 1,144 yards and 19 touchdowns, tying the then-NFL season record for rushing touchdowns.[c][17][18] He went on to rush for 120 yards and a touchdown in San Diego's 41–38 win over the Miami Dolphins in a famous playoff game known as The Epic in Miami, and 94 yards in the AFC title game, known as the Freezer Bowl. Muncie also helped lead the team to two AFC West division championships.

After the 1982 season, former New Orleans teammate Don Reese said he used cocaine with Muncie during their time with the Saints.[10][19] Muncie said that he had cut down on his cocaine since his trade to San Diego. He admitted he still had a problem with alcohol and marijuana, and he underwent an initial round of rehabilitation.[10] However, after missing a bed check and a practice during training camp, he underwent three weeks of additional rehabilitation, and returned for the start of the 1983 season.[20] Before the second game of 1984 against the Seattle Seahawks, Muncie missed the team's charter flight from San Diego. When he arrived in Seattle, he told coach Don Coryell that vandals slashed the tires on his car. Coryell didn't believe him, and sent him back to San Diego.[21][22]

Two days later, Muncie was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a second-round draft pick.[21][23] At the time, he was the NFL's 13th leading rusher of all-time with 6,702 yards;[2] however, the trade was voided after a urinalysis conducted by the Dolphins showed cocaine in his system.[21][24] Afterwards, Muncie entered an Arizona drug rehabilitation center for a month. On November 15, he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL;[21] he never played another NFL game.[17] In March 1985, Chargers owner Alex Spanos said Muncie would never play for San Diego again, even if his suspension was lifted.[21]


After being reinstated later in 1985, Muncie was traded to the Minnesota Vikings. He started and performed well in the final exhibition game,[24] but he served a one-game suspension in the season opener after failing to attend two aftercare therapy sessions that were one of the conditions of his reinstatement.[25][26] Muncie retired three days later, citing his need to make his life his first priority and the difficulty with balancing drug rehabilitation with playing football.[24][26]


Muncie finished his nine-season career with 6,702 rushing yards, 263 receptions for 2,323 yards, 20 kickoff returns for 432 yards, and 74 touchdowns. He completed four passes in his career, all for touchdowns, with three of them to Wes Chandler, and he had a 141.4 passer rating.[27] Muncie's rushing yards were the seventh-most in the NFL from 1976 though 1984, while his touchdowns ranked fourth. His 71 rushing touchdowns ranked ninth in NFL history at his retirement.[28] At his death in 2013, he ranked fifth in Saints history in career rushing yards, and his 19 touchdowns in a season and 43 in his career with the Chargers had been surpassed only by LaDainian Tomlinson.[17] He also shares a Chargers record with LaDainian Tomlinson and Clarence Williams with four rushing touchdowns in a single game (against Denver in 1981), and holds the Chargers playoff franchise records with 110 rushes for 516 yards and 86 yards per game, along with 644 career yards from scrimmage, and two playoff games with 100+ yards rushing. He was named to the Saints Hall of Honor,[11][29] and he was a member of the Chargers' 40th and 50th anniversary teams.[17]

The Los Angeles Times wrote that Muncie "was gifted with size, speed and power",[30] while The Miami News said he possessed the strength of a fullback and the elegance of a halfback.[2] U-T San Diego added that he was "widely considered the most talented running back of his era",[31] and the San Francisco Chronicle said Muncie "could have been the greatest running back in NFL history, a 2.0 version of Jim Brown" if he had the discipline of running backs like Walter Payton or Roger Craig.[32] "His head is the only thing holding him back", said Jim Brown. "If he had total dedication, he could achieve any goal."[2] While he was in New Orleans, he frequently slept through meetings whenever he attended them at all. Whenever the Saints broke the huddle, quarterback Archie Manning had to walk by Muncie and tell him exactly what he was supposed to do in the upcoming play. Manning recalled years later that it was obvious that Muncie "wasn't thinking about football" during the week.[1]

Muncie was frustrated that he was neither in the Pro Football Hall of Fame nor the Chargers Hall of Fame, acknowledging that "I'm not there because of the choices I made."[33] He described himself as a "functioning addict" during his Chargers tenure.[33] He did cocaine after games, and sometimes would be high for days leading up to game day.[31] In 1982, Reese said Muncie had to be "superman" to perform at his high level in spite of his addiction.[19][30]

Muncie was one of the first players to wear glasses or goggles while playing.[4][34][35] He began wearing glasses at Arizona Western, when he wore them at practice one day and realized they improved his nearsightedness.[4][34] Muncie wore thick black frames throughout his career, switching to sports goggles late in his career. While with the Saints, he was featured in a full-page ad by glassmaker PPG for shatter-resistant glasses.[34] Decades later in the 2010s, National Basketball Association (NBA) players were considered hipsters for wearing thick black glasses.[36][37]

NFL career statistics

Led the league
Bold Career high

Regular season

Year Team Games Rushing Receiving Fumbles
GP GS Att Yds Avg Y/G Lng TD Rec Yds Avg Lng TD Fum FR
1976 NO 12 11 149 659 4.4 54.9 51 2 31 272 8.8 33 0 6 1
1977 NO 14 11 201 811 4.0 57.9 36 6 21 248 11.8 35 1 3 0
1978 NO 13 11 160 557 3.5 42.8 28 7 26 233 9.0 34 0 7 1
1979 NO 16 15 238 1,198 5.0 74.9 69 11 40 308 7.7 28 0 8 2
1980 NO 4 3 40 168 4.2 42.0 24 2 7 25 3.6 8 0 1 0
SD 11 5 135 659 4.9 59.9 53 4 24 234 9.8 19 0 10 0
1981 SD 15 14 251 1,144 4.6 76.3 73 19 43 362 8.4 32 0 9 4
1982 SD 9 9 138 569 4.1 63.2 27 8 25 207 8.3 39 1 4 1
1983 SD 15 12 235 886 3.8 59.1 34 12 42 396 9.4 27 1 8 1
1984 SD 1 1 14 51 3.6 51.0 11 0 4 38 9.5 20 0 1 0
Career 110 92 1,561 6,702 4.3 60.9 73 71 263 2,323 8.8 39 3 57 10

Later life

In the late 1980s, Muncie was found unwashed and homeless by a police officer outside of Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. In 1989, Muncie was sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison in California after he pleaded guilty to intending to sell 2 ounces (57 g) of cocaine to a friend. He turned his life around after prison, pursuing business interests and sharing stories of his drug problems with at-risk youths. Muncie said his time in prison likely saved his life.[38][1]

Muncie worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.[32] In 1997, he established the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation in Antioch, California.[1] The nonprofit organization mentored at-risk youth and provided free medical services, childhood immunizations, tattoo removal for gang members, and camps for chronically ill children.[27][38] Muncie also led a program that mentored athletes at his alma mater in Berkeley.[33] In his later years, he also ran a recruiting service evaluating high school football players.[32] "Everything I did and everything I went through in my life has allowed me to do the things I'm doing now," Muncie said.[27]

He died of a heart attack on May 13, 2013, in Perris, California, near Los Angeles.[1][32]

Personal life

Muncie was married to Robyn Hood. He had one daughter, Danielle Ward.[1]

Muncie's other siblings spell their surname as "Munsey". According to George Von Benko, the executive co-chairman and co-founder of Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame, Muncie's father used various names to avoid paying bills, and used "Muncie" on hospital forms when Muncie was born.[6] Muncie's three brothers also played professional football. George Munsey was on the taxi squad for the Minnesota Vikings, Bill Munsey played running back for the British Columbia Lions in the Canadian Football League, and Nelson Munsey was a cornerback for the Baltimore Colts.[2][4]


  1. ^ The rushing and all-purpose records stood for 29 years, while the touchdown mark lasted 16.
  2. ^ At the time of his death (through the 2012 season), Muncie still ranked among leaders in rushing yards (fifth), rushing touchdowns (second), 100-yard rushing games (tied for second), and all-purpose yards (fourth).
  3. ^ He tied the record held by Jim Taylor and Earl Campbell. John Riggins broke the record with 24 in 1983.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Goldstein, Richard (May 14, 2013). "Chuck Muncie, Troubled N.F.L. Star, Dies at 60". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 21, 2016. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Suarez, Leo (September 14, 1984). "Muncie arrives, says 'Just hand me the ball'". The Miami News. pp. 1A, 4A. Retrieved May 18, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hunter, D. Lyn (Summer 1999). "Chuck Muncie". Berkeley Magazine. Archived from the original on November 26, 2005. Retrieved January 17, 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d Oldermann, Murray (December 4, 1975). "Cal's Muncie Eyes Pro Draft". Daily News. Bowling Green, Kentucky. p. 14. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  5. ^ Granberry, Mike (January 11, 1981). "Muncie Out to Shake Bad Image in Super Setting". The Blade. Toledo, Ohio. p. C3. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d Zeise, Paul (May 15, 2013). "Obituary: Chuck Muncie / Uniontown native and NFL great". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on May 15, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  7. ^ a b c "Cal Great Chuck Muncie Passes Away". May 14, 2013. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013.
  8. ^ Wieberg, Steve (September 2, 2004). "Heisman winner White shuns encore pressure". USA Today. Archived from the original on June 20, 2022.
  9. ^ "An In-Depth Look at Archie Griffin's Repeat". August 12, 2009. Archived from the original on November 29, 2013. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c "Muncie Interview Details Drug Abuse". The New York Times. July 3, 1982. Retrieved May 17, 2013.(subscription required)
  11. ^ a b Martel, Brett (May 14, 2013). "Former Saints, Chargers RB Chuck Muncie dead at 60". Associated Press. Archived from the original on May 18, 2013.
  12. ^ Smith, Michael David (May 14, 2013). "Chuck Muncie dies at 60". Retrieved May 18, 2013.
  13. ^ Wallace, William N. (September 30, 1980). "Muncie Not a Saint Anymore After Being Sent To The Chargers". Ocala Star-Banner. p. 4B. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
  14. ^ Williamson, Bill (May 14, 2013). "Chuck Muncie was a memorable Charger". Archived from the original on June 8, 2013. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  15. ^ Quindt, Fritz (September 6, 1993). "Bolts put the whammy on Sports Illustrated hex". The San Diego Union-Tribune. p. D2. Chuck Muncie graced covers twice as a Charger – on Jan. 13, 1981, busting the Bills defense in a playoff, and on Jan. 17, 1993, breaking Steelers playoff tackles.
  16. ^ "Riggins Receives Bell Award". Schenectady Gazette. UPI. January 13, 1984. p. 22. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
  17. ^ a b c d "Chuck Muncie dies at age 60". May 14, 2013. Archived from the original on June 8, 2013. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  18. ^ "AFC West". Sports Illustrated. September 1, 1982. Archived from the original on July 9, 2019. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  19. ^ a b Reese, Don; Underwood, John (June 14, 1982). "'I'm Not Worth A Damn'". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  20. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE; Muncie Rejoins Team". The New York Times. September 2, 1982. Archived from the original on August 19, 2016. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  21. ^ a b c d e Cobbs, Chris (March 29, 1985). "Spanos' Decision Puzzles Attorney : Klevan Expects a Clean Bill of Health for Chuck Muncie". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 21, 2018. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  22. ^ MaGee, Jerry (September 10, 1984). "Seahawks pick off Chargers Eight turnovers aid Seattle in 31–17 win". The San Diego Union. p. C1.
  23. ^ MaGee, Jerry (September 11, 1984). "Chargers ship Muncie for Miami draft pick". The San Diego Union. p. C1.
  24. ^ a b c "Vikings' Chuck Muncie Retires to Get 'Life in Order'". Los Angeles Times. September 12, 1985. Archived from the original on July 14, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  25. ^ "Muncie suspended". The Spokesman-Review. September 7, 1985. p. 16. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  26. ^ a b Lieber, Jill (September 23, 1985). "Extra Points". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on July 9, 2019. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  27. ^ a b c "Former running back Chuck Muncie dies at 60". USA Today. May 14, 2013. Archived from the original on February 11, 2017. Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  28. ^ Lee, Bryan (September 13, 1999). "Chuck Muncie, Cal Running Back". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on September 10, 2010. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  29. ^ "New Orleans Saints Mourn the Passing of RB Chuck Muncie". May 14, 2013. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  30. ^ a b Peltz, Jim (May 14, 2013). "Chuck Muncie dies at 60; Saints and Chargers running back". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 17, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  31. ^ a b Acee, Kevin (May 14, 2013). "Chargers great Chuck Muncie changed his life, others". U-T San Diego. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016.
  32. ^ a b c d Crumpacker, John (May 15, 2013). "Former Cal great Chuck Muncie dies at 60". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on May 21, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  33. ^ a b c Krasovic, Tom (May 14, 2013). "Ex-Charger Chuck Muncie dies at 60". U-T San Diego. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016.
  34. ^ a b c Strauss, Chris (May 14, 2013). "Chuck Muncie would hit a man with glasses". USA Today. Archived from the original on June 10, 2013. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
  35. ^ "Chuck Muncie dies of heart attack; former NFL running back was 60". May 14, 2013. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013.
  36. ^ Hacker, Bobby (May 14, 2013). "My memories of Chuck Muncie". Archived from the original on June 9, 2013. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  37. ^ Soller, Kurt (June 8, 2012). "Why LeBron James Needs A New Look Now". Archived from the original on May 28, 2013. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  38. ^ a b Matuszewski, Erik (May 14, 2013). "Chuck Muncie, NFL Pro Bowl Back for Saints, Chargers, Dies at 60". Archived from the original on June 17, 2022.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chuck Muncie.
  • Career statistics and player information from Pro Football Reference
  • Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation
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