Twenty-nine years ago today, a budding NFL star did something that few of us ever would do. And he made the ultimate sacrifice while doing it.
Chiefs running back Joe Delaney, a 24-year-old father of three young girls who needed him, tried to save three young boys who needed him, in that moment, even more.
On June 29, 1983, the boys had waded into a man-made water hole that had a deep end they didn’t know about. They soon were struggling, and Delaney reacted.
As Frank Deford, then of Sports Illustrated, later explained it, “There were all sorts of people around, but only Joe dashed to the pond. There was a little boy there. ‘Can you swim?’ he asked Joe.
“‘I can’t swim good,’ Joe said, ‘but I’ve got to save those kids. If I don’t come up, get somebody.’ And he rushed into the water.”
One of the boys made it out, two didn’t. Neither did Joe Delaney.
It didn’t matter that Joe Delaney couldn’t swim very well. It mattered that three boys were in trouble.
Nearly three full decades after his death, Joe Delaney’s ongoing message to the rest of us is that there are plenty of ways to help people who are in trouble, ways that don’t involve risks to life and limb.
And so when the time comes to make excuses for not lending a hand, that’s the time to remember Joe Delaney.