The New Orleans Saints family lost a great one today, as former running back Chuck Muncie passed away at the age of 60. Muncie was a bruising, physical runner who spent some of his NFL days in New Orleans before being shipped off to the San Diego Chargers.
NOLA.com’s Larry Holder broke the grim news on Twitter after the Saints confirmed:
#Saints have confirmed the death of Chuck Muncie. He was 60. Adam Schefter reports Muncie died of a heart attack.
— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) May 14, 2013
John Roach of NOLA.com posted brief details about Muncie’s impact with the Saints:
Chuck Muncie, a three-time Pro Bowler who was the New Orleans Saints’ first-round pick in 1976–but whose career was derailed by drug abuse–died Monday of a heart attack, the New Orleans Saints have confirmed. Muncie played with the Saints from 1976 through the first four games of the 1980 season before being traded to San Diego.
Despite his short Saints career, the bruising 6-foot-3, 227-pound Muncie is considered among a handful of the team’s all-time best running backs. He rushed for 3,393 yards for New Orleans, including 1,198 and 11 touchdowns in the 1979 season. He is still the team’s fifth all-time rushing leader.
Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk provided a more in-depth look of Muncie’s life:
Muncie’s career came to an abrupt end in 1984 when Commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended him for the remainder of the season when he tested positive for cocaine after Week One. Although Muncie tried to come back with the Vikings in 1985, he quickly quit, saying he had issues in his personal life that he needed to get in order.
In 1989, Muncie was sentenced to 18 months in prison for selling cocaine. After he was released, however, he turned his life around, and spent his later years working with children, counseling adults who were struggling with drug addiction, and encouraging gang members to lead more productive lives. (One of Muncie’s pet projects was providing tattoo removal services for former gang members who wanted to get gang markings off their skin so they’d look presentable in job interviews.)
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2008, Cal’s team doctor mentioned that Muncie made a point of being there any time an athlete at his alma mater who was going through a tough time could use some words of wisdom from someone who had been there before.
“Whenever we call, he makes himself available,” Dr. Bill Coysh said. “That’s what’s incredible about him. This is not a paid position. He does it because that’s how he is.”