Former New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers running back Chuck Muncie suffered heart failure and died in his Los Angeles-area home on Monday, the Associated Press reports.
Muncie, the No. 3 overall pick of the 1976 NFL draft, had turned 60 in March.
Muncie spent the first four-plus seasons of his career with the Saints, rushing for 3,393 yards and 28 touchdowns in 59 games and earned Pro Bowl honors in 1979 before he was traded to the Chargers midway through the 1980 season. Muncie ranks fifth in Saints' history in rushing yards, is third in rushing touchdowns and is a member of the Saints' Hall of Honor.
“Sadly, we have learned of the untimely passing of Chuck Muncie,” said New Orleans Saints Owner Tom Benson. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and other loved ones at this difficult time."
In 51 games over his four-plus seasons in San Diego, Muncie ran for over 3,300 yards with 43 touchdowns, a number that still ranks second in Chargers' history. Muncie led the NFL with 19 rushing touchdowns in 1981 and scored eight more touchdowns in a nine-game, strike-shortened season in 1982, earning Pro Bowl honors after each season.
“It’s disheartening and when I got the call it shook me up quite a bit," former Chargers guard Ed White said. “He was a great guy and a wonderful teammate. I loved him to death. The thing that I see when I close my eyes is his happy face, his smile and his kindness to everyone."
Muncie struggled with drug abuse during and after his playing career and in 1989 he received 18 months in federal prison after being convicted for cocaine distribution. Following his release from prison, Muncie dedicated himself to the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation where he worked with at-risk youth.
"He was a 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,'' said 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."