Pat Micco remembers the straw hat, the black-framed glasses and the freakish athletic ability.
Chuck Muncie was one of a kind, a football marvel surrounded by "mere mortals," said Micco, a semi-retired computer consultant who resides in Gold River.
Micco was a guard for the 1975 Cal Bears who took glee in blocking defenders just enough to allow the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Muncie to slither through and rumble downfield. Micco measured 6-2 and 225 pounds back then, well before the era of 300-pound linemen.
Micco on Monday recalled the legacy of Muncie, who died at 60 of a heart attack May 13. His service was in San Diego on Saturday, when Micco was on an Alaskan cruise. Since his return, Micco has talked to former teammates and his Bears coach, Mike White, to reflect.
"I was surprised to hear Chuck died, and very sad," Micco said. "Muncie was incredible. We ran the Green Bay sweep, or play action at Cal, and he just outran or ran over everybody. He was bigger than his linemen. He was bigger than the defensive tackles I was blocking. I used to tell Chuck when we'd run '21-Toss' that he had to push me out of the way before taking on the defense.
"Chuck Muncie was Superman coming out of the phone booth."
Only the glasses never came off in practices, games or in class. The trademark Muncie-look on campus in Berkeley was that of a free spirit with a wide-brim straw hat, an equally broad grin, a beard and those spectacles. He rode a bike to school, sometimes in overalls and hiking boots, and he chatted with everybody.
Muncie delighted in taking on USC but disdained Cal training camp sessions, Micco said. Muncie once arrived to workouts 20 pounds overweight. He stamped out a cigarette and peeled off a stunning 40-yard dash on thick grass in front of a horde of NFL scouts.
"He ran like a 4.2 40, and no one was sharing times because it was that amazing," Micco said. "Chuck could do that. Just show up and go."
It still rankles Micco that Muncie didn't win the Heisman Trophy in 1975, when the Bears led the nation in total offense. The trophy went to Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, a repeat winner. Muncie was second in the voting.
Muncie was the premier NFL back of his era but was undone by drug abuse. He played for the Saints and the Chargers but was eventually banned by the NFL for repeated failed drug tests.
By 1989, Muncie had bottomed out. Police found a disheveled Muncie dozing off near Memorial Stadium, where he was once king. He was incarcerated for 18 months for cocaine trafficking. He emerged a new man, creating a foundation under his name to counsel at-risk youths. He helped run high school combines and served as a mentor of sorts to Cal students, imploring scores of athletes to avoid his path and to take advantage of a Cal education.
"I was sad for Chuck," Micco said. "He was homeless, and that just can't happen. If I'd known he was homeless, I'd have him living with me. It just shows the incredible power of those drugs to control a man like that."
Micco said he last saw Muncie several years ago at a fundraising golf event for the Chuck Muncie Youth Foundation in the Bay Area. The old lineman bear-hugged the old tailback. They shared stories and laughs.
"It was like old times," Micco said. "That was Chuck, never into himself or a prima donna, and so friendly. Everyone loved Chuck. Such a cool dude. We'll miss him."
A long journey to Berkeley
Muncie took a unique path to Cal. He grew up in Uniontown, Pa., the youngest of six children. Just before his seventh birthday, he was struck by a dump truck, breaking his left thigh, lower leg and hip. Muncie was in a cast for a year, and doctors warned his parents he might not walk again, nevermind run. Muncie used an extra thick sole in his left shoe to compensate for a shorter leg, the result of surgery.
Muncie didn't play football his senior year of high school because his mother feared concussions. He attended Arizona Western College in 1971 on a basketball scholarship, returning to football at the pleas of the football coaches. He led a 9-1 team in rushing before heading to Cal.