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Chargers by the (Jersey) Numbers: #46

Here’s one that’s so obvious that no one even merits Runner Up.


The Winner

Chuck Muncie, RB

Let’s clear up a few misconceptions about Chuck Muncie.  No, he wasn’t born in Muncie, Indiana.  No, he didn’t wear the goggles as some sort of tribute to Clark Kent so he could go all "Superman" on the opposition.  No, he wasn’t acquired by the Chargers in a blockbuster trade with New Orleans that netted them both Muncie and Wes Chandler (Muncie was acquired mid 1980 season; Chandler mid 1981).  But most importantly of all, Muncie was not some fly-by-night unknown who surprised people with the way he could adapt to a high-powered offense.


Muncie’s stud-itude started in college at Cal.  After breaking a myriad of records his senior season, he finished second in the Heisman voting.  He was then drafted 3rd overall by the Saints and became the first Saints player ever to rush for over 1,000 yards when he ran for 1,198 yards in 1979.  He also happened to be the MVP of the Pro Bowl that year.


But Bourbon Street was not paved with gold for Muncie in New Orleans.  He-said, he-said, he-did controversy developed, and Muncie, labeled as a malcontent (and much worse), wanted out, and the Saints were willing to oblige.  And the Chargers, desperately in need of a quality running back, were willing to take him.


The moniker "Air Coryell" wasn’t totally complimentary.  It spoke to the one-dimensional nature of the Charger offense.  Muncie represented exactly what the Chargers wanted and needed in a running back: a big bruising runner who could run between the tackles and keep the linebackers from drifting too far into passing lanes, but also a runner fast enough to get outside on sweeps.  And most importantly, Muncie could catch.  And run after the catch. 


Muncie instantly proved his worth during the 1980 season, and then in 1981, his first full season with the Bolts he rushed for 1,144 yards and an NFL-high 19 touchdowns.  And he was no slouch in the playoffs: 120 yards rushing against Miami in "The Game," and even 94 against Cincinnati in the "The Freezer."


Soon after, of course, things came crashing down.  Muncie tested positive for cocaine after the 1984 season, and retired soon after.  A few years later, he was convicted of drug trafficking and spent 18 months in prison.


As a testament to the man, Muncie has since turned himself around, and now (a lot like another former Charger running back, Mercury Morris) counsels at-risk youth and preaches about the evils of drugs.


And even now, on an occasional crisp fall Sunday afternoon at the Q, you can catch a glimpse of Muncie taking in a Charger game.  Or maybe it’s just the ghost of old number 46 putting the goggles on one last time.  And now he’s got a Golden Jersey to go with that.


The Others

Joe Caravello, HB

Walter Harris, S

Bob Scarpitto, WR-P

John Sykes, RB

Danny Colbert, CB