Remembering Joe Delaney, 34 years later

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Joe Delaney would be 58 years old. But Joe Delaney’s life ended he was 24, exactly 34 years ago today.

The Chiefs running back, whose 1,121 rushing yards as a rookie in 1981 helped the team to its first winning season since 1973, died while trying to save three children who were drowning on June 29, 1983.

I can’t swim good,” Delaney said as he rushed into the water, ‘”but I’ve got to save those kids.'”

One of the three children survived.

We remember Joe Delaney’s heroic act of selflessness every year, and this year there’s a new twist. Via the Kansas City Star, Mark and Kelly Neath named their 15-year-old daughter Delaney in honor of Joe.

“I think for Mark and I, every time we get an opportunity to talk about how Delaney got her name, it’s a way to give testimony as to why Joe was important,” Kelly Neath said.

“I feel like it helps keep him alive,” Mark Neath added.

Delaney Neath wears Joe Delaney’s No. 37 in every sports she plays. No. 37 is a number that should be worn by a lot more football players, who then can explain when asked why they picked such an unusual number that it’s a living tribute to a young hero who gave his life while trying to save three others.

30 responses to “Remembering Joe Delaney, 34 years later

  1. Wow, has it been that long? Life moves fast.

    It’s tough to take when bad things happen to good people such as this. He was a true hero.

  2. I first learned about Delaney’s story from PFT a few years ago. It’s great that this site runs this article every year for a man who had a great NFL career cut short while doing something selfless and heroic. Delaney’s fame didn’t get to grow like other sports legend like Roberto Clemnte who died doing something selfless which is why OFT doing this article every year to introduce new generations to his story is great.

  3. RIP Joe. A true hero.

    Seems like the Chiefs have been cursed since he died. They’re good but never quite good enough.

  4. So is Mark Neath the one Delaney saved or is he just some dude that’s using his name to get press for his daughter?

  5. Man, I remember that when I was a kid and being blown away.

    Incredible act of heroism. Great reminder.

  6. I remember when that happened. Hero is a word that gets thrown around a lot and sometimes it’s not deserved. But Delaney’s selfless act was definitely heroic.
    R.I.P. Joe and football fans everywhere miss you.

  7. Joe Delaney was a true hero whose memory should be an inspiration to everyone. He selflessly risked and lost his life to save kids he did not know. A great man.

    Sadly, a few months after Delaney died, another great, charitable NFL veteran, Buddy Young, died in a car accident returning from a memorial service for Delaney. More than 1,000 people attended Young’s funeral.

    It was a cruel twist of fate that Buddy Young, a great man himself, died while honoring another great man, Joe Delaney.

  8. Thanks for remembering this each year. Delaney heroic actions should never be forgotten.

    And oh by the way, he was a beast on the field, and one of the quickest RBs I remember from that era.

  9. In discussion of Hall of Fame induction, I think it would be difficult for Joe to get elected based on his brief career-but I would hope the Hall would have some sort of permanent tribute to players (or anyone involved with an NFL team) who made the ultimate sacrifice performing some sort of heroic action. Joe Delaney and Pat Tillman come to mind as well as Don Steinbrunner and Bob Kalsu-the only two NFL players killed in the Vietnam War.

  10. I’ve told his story often, and remember the shock of reading about his death like it was yesterday.

  11. Truly tragic. I just read the original story though, and am at a loss how a “large hole dug out of the earth” and filled with water could be out in the open at a County Fair where children ran around unattended? Something so dangerous that it could drown adults? Not to make light of the situation, but what the hell was the story there?

  12. Keep the remembrance coming year after year.

    Great idea about a special hero section in the hof. Give people pause when they go through.

  13. True hero. A man the world needs more of. Sad that he gave his life for a kid that would grow into a man the world needs less of.

    From 2001~
    “Today, LeMarkits Holland has found himself in search of yet another rescuing hand. At 27, Holland sits behind bars on a drug conviction here at the Ouachita Parish Correctional Center, or as it is known locally, “The Pea Farm,” the grounds of which are used by inmates to grow produce. Wearing a red jump suit and sandals, Holland is ushered by a guard into a bare interview room at the prison and joined on this December day by his attorney, Robert C. Johnson. In jail since police picked him up in September, Holland pleaded guilty to distribution of cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine and was sentenced on each count to five years, to run concurrently. Only too aware that he is squandering the second chance that Joe Delaney so courageously provided him, Holland says: “He would not be too happy to see me sitting in here.”

  14. R.I.P Joe! Look forward to this every year Florio. We read alot of junk on social media I hope a few of our community here can find some time to share this story today.

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