Tuesday, January 02, 2007


#3 - CHUCK MUNCIE - RUNNING BACK (1973-1975)
The bespectacled kid from Uniontown, PA wasn't even supposed to play college football. A savage tackle in a high school game left him with a concussion and low-grade amnesia, and his parents forbade him to play another game. Desperate to escape the coal mines that surrounded his town and had claimed the lives of several of his relatives, Muncie focused on basketball and won a scholarship to travel west to Arizona West Junior College. Away from his mother's eyes, Muncie strapped the pads on for the fall football season; Cal coaches saw him, and six months later he was in Berkeley.

At 6'2, 240 pounds with a 4.5 time in the forty, Muncie presented opposing defenses with a unique mix of power and breakaway speed. He announced his presence with 126 rushing yards against Army in the third game of his sophomore season. That 1973 team struggled on defense and in the passing game with an uneven QB rotation of future stars Steve Bartkowski and Vince Ferragamo. Muncie was clearly the star with 801 yards rushing (5.1 average) and 11 scores. As a junior, the Bears became winners on the right arm of Bartkowski, and Muncie turned in another strong season, earning first team All-Pac 8 honors with 791 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns.

Mike White restructured the 1975 offense to feature his talented junior more both in the running game and on passes out of the backfield. Muncie responded with one of the great seasons in conference history. Muncie saw his carries increase to 228 on the season (more than 20 per game) and he gained 1477 yards - a 6.4 yard average. He also gained 392 yards on receptions out of the backfield. Muncie shredded Oregon for 207 yards; Stanford for 166. He tore up USC with 143 yards in a nationally televised upset of the defending conference champions. Behind Muncie and a dangerous passing game engineered by Joe Roth, the Bears set conference records with 458.6 yards of offense per game (amazingly, they averaged exactly 229.3 yards rushing and passing).

Chuck Muncie should be the only Heisman Trophy winner in Cal history, but he finished second to defending winner Archie Griffin of Ohio State. Griffin was the anointed choice, having won the 1974 award and playing in the media spotlight for the nation's #1 team. Muncie out-rushed Griffin (1,460 to 1,450) despite playing on a team with a potent passing attack (OSU rarely passed). Muncie averaged 6.4 yards per carry, Griffin 5.5. Muncie was a major threat out of the backfield; Griffin rarely caught a pass.

Following his graduation from Cal with a BA in social studies, Muncie played for nine years and made three Pro Bowl squads for the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints. But he also saw his private life spiral out of control due to an addiction to cocaine. Less than two years after he played his last game, Muncie was serving an 18-month sentence in Lompoc on federal drug trafficking charges. Today he says that prison saved his life, and that would appear to be true. Following his release, Muncie established the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation, which mentors at-risk youth in California.


At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it easier to run when the defense has to respect the passing game? My guess is that most defenses stacked the line against the non-throwing Ohio State team - making that 1 yard per carry difference seem somewhat inconsequential, don't you think?

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Mike Russell said...

Doesn't matter that he didn't win the Heisman, although that would have been a great thing. The memory of him and that team, which had the exact same number of yards passing as rushing, lasts a lifetime; and Chuck led the way. I still wonder why Mike White was let go. There was a dynasty in the making there.

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Dan B said...

Muncie made the cover of the November 24, 1975 issue of Sports Illustrated (heck of a photo). It would be nice to have that up here.

At 6:32 AM, Anonymous muebles toledo said...

This can't work as a matter of fact, that is exactly what I believe.

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