Former NFL running back Chuck Muncie has died of a heart attack at the age of 60.
“Sadly, we have learned of the untimely passing of Chuck Muncie,” Saints owner Tom Benson said in a statement on the team’s website. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and other loved ones at this difficult time.”
Muncie, who also played for the San Diego Chargers, was a three-time Pro Bowler who rushed for 6,702 yards and 71 rushing touchdowns in 110 career games.
“Everyone at the Chargers is deeply saddened by the passing of Chuck Muncie, one of the greatest running backs in Chargers history,” the team said in a statement. “We will remember him as a tremendous athlete with a larger-than-life personality. It’s a sad day for all of us and all Chargers fans.”
Muncie was suspended after Week 1 in 1984 after testing positive for cocaine. He was traded to the Minnesota Vikings in 1985 after being reinstated from his suspension but never played another NFL game.
In 1989, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for selling cocaine. He turned things around later in his life, however, and worked with at-risk children and counseled people battling drug addiction.
He created the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation, the mission of which was to offer children mentoring, educational assistance and counseling.
“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 Muncie 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.”
Muncie’s best season was in 1981, when he led the NFL with 19 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,144 yards, helping the Chargers reach the AFC Championship Game for the second straight season.
Only LaDainian Tomlinson has scored more touchdowns in a single season in Chargers history.
He was drafted by the Saints with the third overall pick in the 1976 draft and went on to register the first 1,000-yard rushing season in franchise history when he rushed for 1,198 yards in 1979. That season, he became the first Saints player to go to the Pro Bowl, earning MVP honors in the game.
The 6-foot-3 Muncie, who played at 227 pounds, and fellow Saints running back Tony Galbreath formed what then-coach Hank Stram dubbed the “Thunder and Lightning” combination in the New Orleans backfield. Both running backs are now member of the Saints Hall of Honor in the team’s practice facility.
He rushed for 3,393 yards with 28 touchdowns in his time with the Saints. His rushing total still ranks fifth on the franchise’s all-time list.
He requested a trade after the 1979 season, however, and was dealt to the Chargers during the 1980 season.
Muncie was chosen as one of the 50 greatest Chargers of all-time in 2009. He is second in franchise history to Tomlinson in career rushing touchdowns (43).