Today marks the 30th year since the death of not only a great runner but one of the greatest men to have played in the National Football League for the Kansas City Chiefs. On June 29, 1983 Joe Delaney risked his life in attempt to save three children from drowning in a lake in Monroe in northeastern Louisiana. He went with friends to an amusement center until he heard children screaming for help in a 20-foot deep water hole. Delaney, who did not know how to swim, jumped in to try to rescue them and drowned. One child was able to get out of the water but the others, including Delaney, were not as fortunate. He was honored with his unselfish act and to this day has been labeled a hero.
Joe Delaney played two seasons for the Chiefs and came to Kansas City as the undersized guy who people doubted. At 5'10, 184 pounds, Delaney was a track star and small back out of Northwestern State looking to make a name for himself in the NFL. In his first game coming off the bench, he ran for 101 yards against New England and then registered over 100 yards both rushing and receiving in his first professional start against the hated Oakland Raiders.
Delaney was named Rookie of the Year in the AFC in 1981 and set four franchise records that stood for over twenty years. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl in his rookie year after leading the Chiefs to their first winning season in eight years. The four franchise records he set were most yards in a season (1,121), most yards in a game (193), most consecutive 100-yard-plus games (3) and most 100-yard games in a season (5). His number 37 was unofficially retired by the Chiefs after his death, and he was elected to the team's Hall of Fame in 2004.
If you also want to get an idea of the type of man Joe Delaney was, he once paid for a funeral of a former teacher whose family could not afford the proper services. For his heroic act of attempting to rescue three kids from drowning, Delaney was awarded the Presidential Citizen's Medal from the President of the United States at the time, Ronald W. Reagan. President Reagan also had this to add:
"He made the ultimate sacrifice by placing the lives of three children above regard for his own safety. By the supreme example of courage and compassion, this brilliantly gifted young man left a spiritual legacy for his fellow Americans."
Rest in peace Mr. Delaney.
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