In honor of Chuck Muncie, who died Monday at the age of 60, we pose this simple question:
Who is the great Cal running back of all-time?
Actually, not that simple because the question covers a lot of years and a lot of talented players, although let’s limit the discussion to the post-World War II era.
The candidates (presented chronologically):
— JACKIE JENSEN: Cal’s first 1,000-yard back — 1,080 yards, a 7.3 ypc average in 1948 — Jensen played on Pappy Waldorf’s Rose Bowl teams and on a College World Series championship team. Was the American League MVP one season, playing alongside Ted Williams.
— JOHNNY OLSZEWSKI: Led the Bears in rushing in 1950-51-52, including a 1,000-yard campaign as a sophomore, when he was a first-team All-America pick. Played 10 seasons in the NFL.
— CHUCK MUNCIE: Ran for 1,460 yards as a senior in 1975, when the Bears led the nation in total offense and posted an 8-3 record. Was a consensus first-team All-America pick, the Pac-8 Player of the Year and runnerup in the Heisman Trophy voting. Still No. 5 on Cal’s career rushing list. A three-time Pro Bowl pick in the NFL.
— PAUL JONES: A straight-ahead runner, Jones led the Bears in rushing three straight years (1977-78-79) and ranks No. 6 on the all-time list with 2,960 yards.
— RUSSELL WHITE: Cal’s only three-time 1,000-yard rusher, he returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown against defending national champion Miami the first time he touched the ball at Memorial Stadium. Remains the Bears’ career rushing leader with 3,367 yards.
— JOE IGBER: Led the Bears in rushing as a freshman and sophomore in 1999 and 2000 and sits No. 4 all-time at Cal with 3,124 yards. The downside: He played on teams that were a combined 4-29 his first three seasons.
— J.J. ARRINGTON: Had the most prolific season of any Cal running back in 2004, rushing for 2,018 yards with 15 touchdowns as the Aaron Rodgers-led Bears went 10-2.
— MARSHAWN LYNCH: Had back-to-back seasons of 1,246 and 1,356 rushing yards in 2005 and ’06, and sits second on Cal’s career list with 3,230 yards … despite leaving for the NFL after his junior season. Averaged 6.6 yards per carry for his Cal career. Has topped 1,000 yards four of his six seasons in the NFL.
— JUSTIN FORSETT: Played behind Lynch for three years, then ran for 1,546 yards — third-best in school history — as a senior in 2007. Despite three seasons as an understudy, totaled 3,220 yards, third-most by any Cal player.
— JAHVID BEST: Probably Cal’s fastest running back — although Brendan Bigelow might make an argument — Best ran for 1,580 yards and 15 TDs as a sophomore in 2008. He averaged a ridiculous 8.1 yards per carry that season. In parts of three seasons, Best totaled 2,668 yards on 7.3 per attempt.
You may have others in mind, but these are 10 of the most accomplished.
Here is my Top 5: 1. Muncie; 2. Lynch; 3. White; 4. Jensen; 5. Best.
Cast your votes now.