The Kansas City Chiefs lost a very promising second year player 31 years ago today when running back Joe Delaney lost his life. Some might wonder exactly who that is, but most fans of the NFL will at least recall the name.
Delaney was a two time All-American for the Northwestern State Demons football team and played track and field as well. He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the second round of the 1981 draft and was named by the United Press International, AFC Rookie of the Year.
In his rookie season, Delaney rushed for 1,121 yards on 234 attempts and added three touchdowns. His longest run of his two seasons was 82 yards. In his two seasons with the Chiefs, Delaney averaged 65.3 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry.
His numbers are not awe inspiring and they make no record books. Instead we are left to imagine what his career might have been like. Delaney died prior to the start of the 1983 season.
On June 29, 1983 Delaney was spending the day at a lake amusement park in Monroe, Louisiana. A construction project left a 20 foot deep hole at the park, it wasn’t intended to be a swimming hole. Three boys began screaming for help and Delaney, who didn’t know how to swim, was the only person to jump in after the kids.
One boy made it out and one would later die at the hospital. Delaney and the third child both drowned. Their bodies were recovered by dive teams.
On July 15th, then President, Ronald Reagan awarded Delaney with the Presidential Citizens Medal. It was presented to Delaney’s family by then Vice-President George Bush.
“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,” said President Reagan.
Delaney may not have lived a full life but his life continues to live on.