Remembering ‘The Munc’

“He was like a bull, with speed,” said Ed White of his old teammate and fellow Cal alum Chuck Muncie, who died on Monday of a heart attack at age 60. The two played together at the San Diego Chargers in the early 80s, where Ed was an All-Pro offensive guard and Chuck was an All-Pro running back.

White was glad to be throwing blocks for him and not trying to tackle him. “The Munc played hard, I’ll tell you that. I can’t imagine what it was like to be a defensive player after a full game against him. He couldn’t wait to hit somebody and run over ‘em. He was so fast, sometimes I think he just wanted me to get out of the way.”

Like “Big Ed” before him, Muncie was a consensus first-team All-American at Cal. He was also runner-up for the 1975 Heisman Trophy. The first time he and White played together, in the Chargers’ opening game against the Cleveland Browns in 1981, Muncie ran for 161 yards. ”I had a great time,” the star running back, who had come to the Chargers from the Saints, said after the game. ”I never had an offensive line like that to work with in my career.” With the help of their blocking, he tied the league record for touchdowns in a season that year.

Things changed quickly, however, and by 1984 Muncie’s NFL career was over, brought to a premature end by cocaine addiction. Eventually he would go to prison on charges of drug dealing, an experience he claimed saved his life and helped to turn it around.

He established the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation in 1997, a not-for-profit organization aimed at helping young people make better decisions than he had and giving them alternatives to life on the street. Among other services, his foundation ran a well-respected tattoo-removal program to help gang members make a clean start. He also became a mentor to Cal players, offering younger players the kind of guidance he said he wished he’d had.

Reached on the phone earlier today, White said of his old friend, “You know, you really gain by losing, and I think that, because of the depths he sank to, Chuck became a better man. And he really helped people, by showing them you could turn your life around like he did. I hope that’s what he’s remembered for. … Did he have some demons? Yeah. We all do. Mine is on the end of a fork.”

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