Ex-NFL star, Uniontown native Muncie dies

Bob Cohn
| Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 4:12 p.m.

Chuck Muncie, whose journey from Uniontown led to greatness on the football field and major problems off it, died from heart failure Tuesday at his Los Angeles-area home. He was 60.

A star running back at the University of California, Muncie was a three-time Pro Bowler for the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers. In 110 NFL games over nine seasons, he rushed for 6,702 yards and 71 touchdowns and racked up another 2,323 yards and three touchdowns receiving. He also occasionally returned kickoffs and completed 4 of 7 pass attempts for 126 yards and four TDs.

But drug problems derailed his career. Muncie was suspended in 1984 for testing positive for cocaine, and five years later he was imprisoned for cocaine trafficking. Muncie later overcame his addiction and worked as a counselor.

“His work with at-risk youth, the Boys and Girls Clubs and his foundation were the things that really made him shine,” Muncie's daughter, Danielle Ward, said in a written statement provided by family spokesman Vintage Foster of AMF Media Group in San Ramon, Calif.

“He was star on the football field, but his most impressive work was done in the second chapter of his life where he lived his life with great transparency,” added Muncie's former wife, Robyn Hood. “He simply wanted others to learn from his mistakes. He carried that message with him everywhere he went. And as a result, he changed the lives of hundreds of kids. He made a difference.”

One of six children, Harry Vance “Chuck” Muncie played football at Uniontown High School before he got hurt during his senior year. An outstanding basketball player (he also competed in track), Muncie earned a scholarship in that sport to Arizona Western (Junior) College, where the football coach persuaded him to come out for the team.

“Chuck was great at everything he did,” said his former basketball teammate, Jes Hutson. “He averaged 10 points and 14 rebounds a game as a senior, and he was our enforcer. He could leap to the moon.”

After one season, Muncie received a scholarship to play football at Cal and set several school rushing records. During his senior year in 1975, Muncie ran for 1,460 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 39 passes for 392 yards and three more scores. He finished second to Ohio State's Archie Griffin in the Heisman Trophy balloting.

New Orleans drafted Muncie third overall in 1976. Three years later, he became the first 1,000-yard rusher in the franchise's brief history (its first season was 1967) and was later the Pro Bowl MVP.

After demanding a trade, Muncie was dealt to San Diego during the 1980 season. In 1981 he rushed for 1,144 yards and a league-best 19 touchdowns as the Chargers reached the AFC Championship Game. But his career went downhill. He was suspended after the first game in 1984 and missed the rest of the season, then was traded to Minnesota the following year. But he never played another game.

Convicted of cocaine trafficking in 1989, Muncie spent 18 months in a federal prison in California.

“We saw no signs of this in high school,” said Hutson, a kinesiology instructor at Penn State-Fayette and co-founder of the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame, which inducted Muncie in 2012.

After his release, Muncie dedicated his life to helping others through the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation. He also mentored Cal football players and assisted adults with drug problems.

Muncie's family name actually was Munsey, but the popular story is that his father changed the spelling at the time of Chuck's birth to stay one step ahead of bill collectors.

Muncie came from a football family. His brother, Bill Munsey, who died in 2002, played at the University of Minnesota and starred in the Canadian Football League. Another brother, Nelson Munsey, played at Wyoming and spent six years with the Baltimore Colts. He died in 2009.

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BCohn_Trib.

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