Chuck Muncie, a three-time Pro Bowl running back who once held the National Football League record for rushing touchdowns in a season before his career was cut short by cocaine use, has died. He was 60.
Muncie was the third overall pick of the New Orleans Saints in the 1976 NFL draft out of the University of California, where he finished second to Archie Griffin in voting for the 1975 Heisman Trophy. At 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds, Muncie teamed with fellow rookie Tony Galbreath as part of a Saints backfield known as “Thunder and Lightning.”
Muncie spent his first 4 1/2 NFL seasons in New Orleans and was voted the Most Valuable Player at the 1979 Pro Bowl before joining the Chargers for 4 1/2 years.
In 1981, Muncie rushed for 1,114 yards and set a then-NFL record with 19 rushing touchdowns.
For his career, Muncie rushed for 6,702 yards and 71 touchdowns while averaging 4.3 yards a carry. He was suspended by the NFL for the 1984 season after testing positive for cocaine and marijuana use and wouldn’t play in the league again even though he attempted a comeback in 1985.
In 1989, Muncie was in a federal prison, serving an 18-month sentence on cocaine distribution charges.
“I had too much time on my hands and went to a lot of parties,” Muncie was quoted as saying in a 1999 story in Cal-Berkeley’s alumni magazine. “Because I was famous, everyone gave me cocaine so I would hang out with them.”
Muncie had said going to jail probably saved his life.
Following his release, Muncie became active in youth programs and community service, and later founded the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation to mentor at-risk youth in Southern California. In addition to helping youth change their lives in a positive way, according to the foundation website, it also reaches tens of thousands of kids with free medical services, childhood immunizations, tattoo removal screenings and camps for chronically ill children.
“I had everything, and I ruined it all because of drugs,” Muncie was quoted as saying in a 1995 Los Angeles Times story ahead of the Chargers’ Super Bowl appearance. “I’m angry at myself. I see guys I played with doing things I could have done. But when I feel that way I look at this club and these kids and remember there is a reason for everything. I believe in my heart I was meant to do this.”
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