Former Cal teammate Steve Bartkowski called Chuck Muncie "the most talented athlete I've ever been on the football field with." Muncie, one of the greatest running backs in Cal history and a three-time Pro Bowl selection in the NFL, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 60.
Muncie was a consensus first-team All-America and runner-up for the Heisman Trophy for Cal in 1975, then was the third overall pick in the 1976 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints. He rushed for 6,702 yards and scored 74 total touchdowns during his pro career, much of it spent with the San Diego Chargers.
Muncie's off-field issues often overshadowed his abilities as a versatile big back with great pass-catching skills. He was suspended for the 1984 NFL season after testing positive for cocaine and later spent 18 months in prison for selling cocaine.
Bartkowski, who played quarterback for 12 seasons in the NFL, called Muncie "one of the most likable, nicest guys I've ever been around, which I think was his downfall.
"It was a strength that really became a weakness. I don't think he ever met a stranger." Muncie got his life back in order after his NFL career ended and established 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." "This is a real loss because Chuck Muncie has done more for more people than any athlete than I've ever been around," said Mike White, who coached Muncie at Cal and later was head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
White said after Muncie was drafted out of Cal, he immediately made a donation to the Port Hueneme Boys and Girls Clubs in Ventura County, helping the organization to grow.
White attended an event at the club with Muncie and said, "The heartfelt gratitude that these young people had was unbelievable. Never in my experience with all the athletes that I've been around had someone made an impact so soon after his collegiate career." Still, Bartkowski said the 6-foot-3, 227-pound back never showed his full potential in the NFL.