Card: Upper Deck Legends 1997
Acquired: Ebay, 2020
The 3rd overall pick of the 1976 draft by the New Orleans Saints, Chuck Muncie had a banner year in 1975 at Cal, rushing for 1460 yards on 228 carries, and 13 TDs. He also caught 39 passes for 392 yards and 2 TDs- and finished second in Heisman voting that year.
A hefty powerback much like Earl Campbell, the Saints stuck Muncie at fullback pairing him with Tony Galbraith. Muncie had a respectable rookie season posting 659 yards on 149 carries. His best season for the Saints came in 1979. It’d be a banner year- as he’d be the first player in franchise history to post a 1,000 yard season, start in the Pro Bowl, and earn Pro Bowl MVP honors. Chuck charged ahead rushing for 1198 yards on 238 carries, and a franchise record (at the time) 11 TDs rushing, along with 40 receptions for 308 yards.
Chuck was traded in 1980 to the San Diego Chargers, where he’d pay quick dividends as the team’s leading rusher- but the specter of drugs was not far behind. He was a perfect fit for the ‘Air Coryell’ offense, and earned back to back Pro Bowl berths in 1981 and 1982. In 81 Muncie rushed for a league record 19 TDs at the time, on 251 carries (1144) yards, while posting a career high 43 receptions. But by 83- the stories were circulating of his cocaine abuse.
“I was spiraling downhill.”
In 1984, unable to depend on Muncie any longer, the Chargers traded Chuck to Miami, where he famously failed a subsequent drug test due to cocaine. Despite entering rehab, the league took a zero tolerance stance and banned him indefinitely. He’d be reinstated for 1985 and quickly traded to Minnesota, where he quickly retired wanting to try to make reclaiming his life from drugs a priority.
Unfortunately that was not rock bottom for Chuck. After a bout of homelessness, Muncie spent time in prison for distribution. It was there, Chuck turned his life around, as he credits prison for saving his life. He became a speaker, did volunteer work, and built a youth foundation in his name. He worked hard at donating time, money, and his fundraising skills, towards noble causes.
A true redemption story, Chuck passed away of a heart attack in 2013. He was only 60 years old.
Chuck Muncie seemed like a random selection to be inserted into what is considered one of the best of the best collections of NFL greats ever, but if not for a career maligned by drug abuse, you have to wonder where Chuck would’ve stood at the end of the day.