Mike Munchak's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Munchak Through the Years
BY DONNIE COLLINS THE SUNDAY TIMES
August 05, 2001
It started on an out-of-the-way pee-wee football field in East Scranton.

It wound up on the steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On Saturday, the often painful, seldom easy journey of Mike Munchak reached its high point, when he was inducted into pro football's shrine along with six other legends.
Here's a look back at the life of a local hero.

THE EARLY YEARS

March 5, 1960 -- Michael Anthony Munchak Jr. is born in Scranton.

-- A promising career is born on a midget football field, as a 9-year-old Munchak dons the pads and helmet for the East Scranton Apollos of the Athracite Junior Football League.

-- As a junior at Scranton Central High School, he is the fullback in front of RB Joe McCarthy, one of the Big 11's best backs, and gains notice for his brutal blocking and tenacious play as a defender.

Sept. 19, 1976 -- Munchak is named The Scranton Times Athlete of the Week for his play on defense during Central's hard-hitting 14-14 tie with Valley View.

July 26, 1977 -- Sports Illustrated magazine nominates Munchak for its 1977 All-American High School Football team.

Oct. 16, 1977 -- For the second time, Munchak is named The Times' Player of the Week after he harrasses Mid Valley with three interceptions -- one of which he returned 45 yards for a touchdown -- and another two-yard run for a score.

Later this season, he will be voted first-team All State as a defensive end and Player of the Year in the Big 11 conference.

Offensively, during his senior season, the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder led the Golden Eagles with 792 yards rushing.

Feb. 15, 1978 --With family members at his side at their Harrison Avenue home, Munchak signs a letter of intent to continue his football career at Penn State University.

PHI KAPPA FOOTBALL

Sept. 1978 -- The Nittany Lions begin a drive that will end up just one touchdown shy of their first-ever national championship.

Penn State crusies to an 11-0 record and No. 1 ranking, but falls to No.2 Alabama, 14-7, in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1979.

As most freshmen on Joe Paterno-led teams did in those days, Munchak spent most of his freshman campaign playing on special teams, still looking for a full-time position.

May 2, 1979 -- Just days before his team's annual Blue-White spring scrimmage, Paterno announces that Munchak, who expressed an interest in playing on the defensive line, will start at offensive guard.

"We moved him to offensive guard in order to look at some other people," Paterno said.

Sept. 15, 1979 -- For the first time in his college career, Munchak is a starter. Bulked up to 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, he will be at right guard for the first snap of the Nittany Lions' 45-10 win in their home opener against Rutgers.

Dec. 22, 1979 -- Penn State ammases 242 rushing yards behind Munchak and his offensive line mates in a 9-6 win over Tulane in the Liberty Bowl.

The East Scranton native, however, twists his right knee during the game.

He will never feel the same again.

"I FELT IT TEAR..." June 5, 1980 -- Penn State officials send their star guard to Portland, Ore., to correct a cartilage problem in his left knee.

"I felt it tear when I pulled to block on a play in scrimmage," he said.

The procedure is considered minor.

Aug. 18, 1980 -- Munchak returns to the practice field for the first time after surgery, but is running gingerly and being held out of contact drills.

Penn State is planning to start senior John Wojtowicz in the opener against Colgate.

Oct. 1, 1980 -- Just three games in, his season is finished. Munchak undergoes more surgery to remove damaged cartilage not removed during the June surgery. Penn State redshirts him.

GOOD AGAIN July 1, 1981 -- Like he has done for much of the summer, Munchak is spending his day in a Scranton health club, trying to lift weights and exercise his way back from the not-so-minor surgery that has left him sidelined.

"It is 100 percent, and it's just a matter of getting the endurance back," he said.



Sept. 12, 1981 -- The endurance is back -- and so is Munchak.

Now entrenched at guard along with friend and All American Sean Farrell, Munchak returns to Beaver Stadium to play his first game in 20 months -- a 52-0 thrashing of Cincinnati.

Nov. 28, 1981 -- Now ranked No. 13 and coming off two tough losses in four games, the Lions rout No. 1 Pittsburgh 48-14 at Pitt Staduim.

Munchak plays every game during the regular season.

Jan. 1, 1982 -- Utilizing the punishing offensive line in front of him, running back Curt Warner rushes for 145 of Penn State's 218 yards on the ground during its 26-10 Fiesta Bowl win over Southern California.

Penn State finishes No. 3 in the nation.

It will be Munchak's final game in Penn State blue and white.

GOODBYE, PA...

Jan. 8, 1982 -- Despite having one year of college eligibility to spend, Munchak decides to enter the National Football League Draft after a talk with Paterno.

"It was a tough decision for me to make, because I love it here," he said. "Coach Paterno told me I was to make a decision I would be happy with."

April 27, 1982 -- In what some scouts call a "one-man draft," the New England Patriots select "the one man" -- Texas defensive tackle Ken Sims.

Munchak is the first offensive lineman selected, at No. 8, by the lowly Houston Oilers.

"I was shocked to see my name up on the screen," the newest Oiler told his parents.

May 1982 -- Munchak celebrates his graduation from Penn State University, holding a degree in business.

June 30, 1982 -- Scrantonians celebrate "Mike Munchak Day." Former NFL referee Lou Palazzi and Penn State offensive coordinator Dick Anderson are the principal speakers at a dinner to honor him.

July 15, 1982 -- Munchak signs his first professional contract, a four-year pact worth slightly more than $1 million per season. Within weeks, he will report to training camp.

TWELVE TO GO...

Aug. 12, 1982 -- The first game jitters are there, but few can tell. Munchak makes his NFL debut in Houston's 22-20 preseason win over New Orleans at the Astrodome.

"You could see that he's an unusual rookie out there tonight," Oilers coach Ed Biles said. "On a couple of plays, he just knocked his man on his butt."

Sept. 11, 1982 -- Veteran John Schumacher is no longer Houston's left guard.

Biles moves Schumacher from guard to left tackle to make room for Munchak, who makes his first start in the Oilers' 27-6 loss to Cincinnati.

"The coaches moved me before I could ask (to be moved to tackle)," Schumacher said. "I don't think anybody else is going to get a lot of playing time at left guard for the next few years."

Sept. 25, 1982 -- No games are played. Munchak's rookie season is interrupted by a player's strike. All scheduled games from Week 3 to Week 9 are cancelled.

Nov. 22, 1982 -- In his first game back from the strike, Munchak is felled by a hairline fracture of the left ankle.

He will play in just one more game.

"I feel like this year's been a total waste for me," he said.

1983

May 14 -- Munchak is married to Marci Ellen Heicklen, of Wescosville, at a ceremony in Kutztown.

Nov. 13 -- Houston loses, 55-14, to Cincinnati, bringing the team's losing streak to an eye-popping 10 games.

"Losing like we've been losing is awful tough to handle," Munchak said.

Dec. 25 -- The horrific 1983 season ends with a 20-10 loss to the Baltimore Colts. The team finishes 2-14.

1984

Jan. 3 -- Despite the team's dismal record, The Newspaper Enterprise Association names Munchak a second-team All Pro guard.

Aug. 7 -- Munchak undergoes arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He began complaining of soreness in the knee when training camp opened two weeks earlier. He hasn't practiced in 12 days.

Nov. 4 -- The Steelers jolt the Oilers, 35-7. Houston falls to 0-10.

Dec. 12 -- Another milestone: Munchak is elected to his first Pro Bowl.

"When the coaches made the announcement," Munchak said, "everyone cheered."

Dec. 16 -- "I know we have the talent here to be a lot better than we were in the last couple of years," Munchak says after a 27-20 loss to Cleveland that ends an arduous 3-13 campaign for the Oilers.

1985

Jan. 27 -- Munchak's Pro Bowl debut is a successful one, as the AFC defeats the NFC, 22-14.

Dec. 18 -- With another disappointing, but healthy, season winding down (the Oilers finished 5-11), Munchak is named a starter on the AFC Pro Bowl squad. It is his second straight nomination.

1986

Feb. 2 -- The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Munchak limps off the turf during the second quarter of his second Pro Bowl with a knee injury. It is not considered serious.

Sept. 7 -- Despite an ankle sprain, Munchak starts for the Oilers during a season-opening 31-3 destruction of Green Bay. The Oilers rush for 157 yards and two touchdowns behind Munchak and the offensive line.

Sept. 14 -- For the first time since his days at Central, Mike visits the end zone. Oilers running back Larry Moriarty fumbles near the goal line, and Munchak recovers in the end zone to score his first, and last, NFL touchdown. Houston falls to Cleveland, 23-20.

"Unfortunately, we lost," he said later. "So my touchdown is not such a big deal."

Oct. 12 -- For Munchak, the season is over. A tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee suffered late in the first quarter of a 20-7 loss to Chicago puts him on the injured reserve.

He'll miss 10 games.

1987

Sept. 13 -- Munchak returns healthy after an 11-month layoff. Houston beats the Lost Angeles Rams, 20-16, to open the season.

Sept. 22 -- For the second time in his career, a strike puts a halt to part of the season. All Week 3 games are cancelled, and replacement players will suit up for the following three weeks.

Dec. 27 -- The Oilers finish the regular season 9-6 and make the playoffs for the first time since Munchak was drafted.

Dec. 28 -- Munchak is rewarded for the team's fine season with a trip to his third Pro Bowl.

1988

Jan. 3 -- In an AFC Wild Card Playoff classic, the Oilers defeat the Seattle Seahawks in overtime, 23-20, on a field goal by kicker Tony Zendejas. Munchak says this win is one of the greatest moments of his professional career.

Jan. 10 -- Denver defeats the Oilers, 34-10, at Mile High Stadium, ending Munchak's postseason.

Dec. 14 -- Anchoring the line for a team that finishes the season 10-6 and in the playoffs, Munchak is named to his fourth Pro Bowl, and second in a row, as a backup guard.

Dec. 24 -- Behind two TDs from running back Allen Pinkett, the Oilers beat Cleveland, 24-23, in a Wild Card Playoff game.

1989

Jan. 1 -- The Oilers are eliminated in the divisional playoffs, 17-10, by the Bills.

Dec. 3 -- In frigid, blizzard-like conditions, the Oilers beat Pittsburgh at Three Rivers Stadium, 23-16. Munchak and his teammates claim sole possession of first place after the season's 13th game -- the latest the team has been in first since 1967.

They will finish third.

Dec. 20 -- Another year, another Pro Bowl nomination. It is Munchak's fifth in his eight-year career.

Dec. 31 -- A once-promising season ends early, as the Oilers are upended by the Steelers, 23-20, at the Astrodome in the first round of the playoffs.

1990

Sept. 23 -- After dropping their first two games on the road, the Oilers win their home opener 24-10 over the Indianapolis Colts.

Dec. 9 -- The Oilers, struggling at 6-6, have an offensive day to remember, breaking many team re-

cords in a 58-14 win over Cleveland. Munchak and the offense set team highs for most points in a game, in a quarter (31) and in a half (45).

The win kicks off a 3-1 finish, and the team grabs a Wild Card berth. The Oilers lead the league in total offense.

Dec. 19 -- Munchak is going to Honolulu for yet another Pro Bowl. It's his sixth.

1991

Sept. 15 -- Another injury to his left knee forces Munchak to remove himself from Houston's 17-7 win over Kansas City at the Astrodome.

Munchak will have arthroscopic surgery later in the week and miss the next four weeks.

Dec. 19 -- Despite the missed time, Munchak earns a trip to his seventh Pro Bowl.

1992

Nov. 22 -- A sore back keeps Munchak out of the Oilers' 19-16 loss to Miami. He will play just one half of his team's 24-21 win against Detroit four days later on Thanksgiving.

Dec. 20 -- The Oilers beat Cleveland, clinching a playoff spot for the sixth straight season.

Dec. 23 -- Munchak admits that, after the back injury and constant knee pain slowed his season, he is considering retirement.

1993

Jan. 3 -- The Oilers are out of the playoffs after a stunning 41-38 OT loss at Buffalo in the first round. Houston blew a 35-3 lead -- the biggest collapse in NFL history.

Sept. 4 -- Munchak plays in the season-opening 33-21 loss to New Orleans. While he will suit up for 13 games this season, chronic knee problems will prevent him from practicing during the week.

Dec. 19 -- The Oilers clinch their second AFC Central Division championship with a 26-17 win over the hated Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium.

Dec. 28 -- Munchak sets an Oilers record by being named to the Pro Bowl for the ninth time.

1994

Jan. 16 -- Kansas City defeats Houston, 28-20, in the divisional playoffs. Munchak takes himself out late in the game with excrutiating pain in his knee.

It's the last football game he'll ever play.

July 21 -- Munchak, 34, announces that chronic knee problems have forced him to retire. He will remain with the Oilers as an assistant to football operaions, working with the offensive line on a day-to-day basis.

"What I'll miss most is the camaraderie of the offensive line," Munchak said. "I'll remember those times when we weren't winning, but we were still busting our butts trying to win."

Nov. 6 -- In front of 47,822 fans at the Astrodome, Munchak's No. 63 is retired by the Oilers at a ceremony during halftime of Houston's game against Pittsburgh.

The fourth-largest city in the nation declared Nov. 6, 1994 "Mike Munchak Day."

2001

Jan. 27 -- In his third year as a nominee, Munchak finally is voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

"I'm in shock. I wasn't counting on having my name called," he said.

July 1 -- Sixty people attend a ceremony to name a road leading to the newly constructed Scranton High School after Munchak.

"Mike Munchak Way" will run near Scranton Memorial Stadium, where Munchak played during his high school career.

"Maybe they'll see that I'm just a hometown kid," Munchak said of the students who will travel the road daily.

Aug. 4 -- Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame.
İScranton Times Tribune 2001