Remembering Joe Delaney, 35 years later

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June 29, 1983. That’s the day Chiefs running back Joe Delaney saw three children drowning, and he jumped in to save them.

Even though Joe couldn’t swim.

It happened 35 years ago today. Joe Delaney would be 59. He died at 24, giving his life in an effort to save a trio of young strangers, one of whom survived.

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

He had entered the NFL in 1981, rushing for 1,121 yards and vaulting the Chiefs to their first winning season since 1973.

Every year on this day, we remember Delaney’s heroism. Three years ago, ESPN made Delaney’s life the subject of a short documentary film. Someone by now should have made his story into a major motion picture.

Regardless of whether or not it ever happens, we’ll continue to remember Joe Delaney every year at this time. People who know the story need to be reminded of it, and people who don’t know the story need to learn it. At a time when too many seem to be concerned only about protecting and advancing their own self interests, it’s fitting to celebrate Delaney’s decision to perform the ultimate act of selflessness.

71 responses to “Remembering Joe Delaney, 35 years later

  1. Florio, I may not agree with many of your more opinionated posts, but God bless you for posting this story every year. You’re absolutely right to bring yearly attention to this story.

  2. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13. R.I.P. Joe. Your selfless act still inspires.

  3. I don’t care how many times this gets posted, I always stop and read it. One of my favorite PFT traditions, because without Mike posting this every year I would have never of known about this story. Awesome story of heroics that ended tragically.

  4. Kudos to you Mike. 5 minutes into his anniversary and you’re honoring him. Very well done. Rest In Peace Mr. Delaney, your memory and heroism lives on.

  5. I feel bad for not knowing this story before and I appreciate the posting of it’s rememberance. Not enough selfless acts like this nowadays. What a tragically beautiful story about what appeared to be a model human being. Here’s to Joe.

  6. Just this week another selfless human being, Victor Mozqueda, jumped in to save a 5 year old child in the same circumstances. He too did not know how to swim and died saving that child.

    Thank you for sharing this, I did not know who Joe Delaney was, I do know and it’s people like him and Victor that remind us how magnificent humans can be.

    Specially needed in an age where bigotry, extremism of opinions and the dilution of core human values are so ubiquitous in our society.

  7. Selfless, then you see what people like Winston, Carruth and others have done, Joe was special

  8. Great job by PFT for remembering a genuine hero. I remember when that happened and it was one of the saddest things I ever heard. God Bless Joe Delaney for what he did and I hope he is in eternal peace.
    I criticize PFT on its stance with Colin Kaepernick, but I also praise you guys when you get it right. On this story, you got it right. I only wish you’d do more of these kinds of stories as opposed to keeping guys like Kaepernick, Manziel, and other misguided players as your mainstays.
    One thing — it would be great if you could locate the child who survived and do an interview with him (or her). I would love to how their life has gone since that horrible tragedy.

  9. Thank you Florio. You are keeping this event alive in peoples minds. In the big picture, this is small, more people than this die each day crossing the street. but as an example to what is good and noble in the human spirit, it is huge. Thank you for not letting me forget him. Sometimes football players are more than just football players.

  10. stucats says:
    June 29, 2018 at 8:03 am
    How in the name of God can anyone give a thumbs down on a comment that praises Joe D?

    You should be ashamed of yourselves!


    Today’s SJW punks…..that’s who

  11. jamesmcv72 says:
    June 29, 2018 at 12:36 am
    Florio, I may not agree with many of your more opinionated posts, but God bless you for posting this story every year. You’re absolutely right to bring yearly attention to this story.

    44 6 Rate This

    I truly respect everyone having their own opinion

    But for the life of me I can not understand how anyone can genuinely vote ‘thumbs down’
    on this (“genuinely = not to be a troll)

    If you did, could you please help me understand as to why?

  12. Very heroic man. I remember how good he was as a rookie and his amazing potential…

    BTW who in the hell is thumbs-downing some of these posts?? You need to re-evaluate your life

  13. I remember this story very well. As a high school coach of 28 years, I speak to young athletes continuously about character and contributing to society. The Joe Delaney story often becomes a topic. Thanks Joe for giving us this model of direction.

  14. I truly respect everyone having their own opinion

    But for the life of me I can not understand how anyone can genuinely vote ‘thumbs down’
    on this (“genuinely = not to be a troll)

    If you did, could you please help me understand as to why?
    I try to understand EVERYONE. But all I can do is try.
    Some people hate togetherness or unity. They probably have always lived with dysfunction but wanted solidarity in their life and hate seeing others have what they themselves yearn for. If you live with dysfunction long enough you can’t live w/o it. It becomes comfortable. So it’s possible the down vote/s is simply a way to make them feel more comfortable. Every jerk has a history that helped shape people into jerks. It’s often a family cycle or some other type of relationship cycle. Sometimes it’s just as simple as a person being ignorant on a topic. Enlightenment is the path to reason. Yet some don’t want to be reasonable. Perhaps being reasonable doesn’t feel right to them.

  15. This just happened last weekend with a teenager dying saving two kids when he couldn’t swim. It reminded of this and I was wondering when you’d post it again.

    True f-n heroes.

  16. Thank you not forgetting Florio.

    Mr. Delaney, we were separated by decades of time and you had already laid down your life in a selfless act of love and bravery before I was born. And although we will never meet in this life, I want you to know that from the bottom of my heart, Joe Delaney – I love you.

    God Bless you brother.

  17. Thanks Mike for not allowing us to forget and bringing attention to those who may not know of Mr. Delaney’s heroics. I appreciate being reminded of this every year.

  18. It’s great that he saved some kids and I’m sorry he died, but he wasn’t much of a running back.
    He wasn’t as good as AD and he certainly isn’t as good as Dalvin Cook.
    He definitely could start for the Packers though.
    They’re so bad they use wide receivers to run the football.

  19. I can’t imagine the courage it must have took for Delaney to take it upon himself to try and save those children.
    Especially when you factor in his lack of swimming skills.
    A true hero, in every sense of the word.

    I’m old enough to remember when this happened.
    Back then, there really wasn’t as much media or news coverage as we have today.
    Thanks, Mike, for highlighting this event every year.
    It’s obviously worth remembering, and for lack of a better phrase, worth celebrating.

  20. Thanks for the annual reminder of this act of bravery.

    On the field Delaney was really something special to watch. I still remember his seemingly lightening quick run on the old Astro turf at Arrowhead stadium against the Broncos, where he took a hand-off and went straight up the middle for 70+ yard TD. A stud on the field, and an even better man off the field.

  21. The world has been a lesser place for the past 35 years due to the tragic loss of the selfless great man Joe Delaney.

    Tragically, another great man, Buddy Young, a retired player who worked for the league at the time, was killed in a car accident while leaving a memorial event for Joe Delaney. Joe and his wife Geraldine were tireless pillars of the community, volunteering to help others through multiple organizations such as the YMCA and Meals on Wheels. Geraldine was named United Way Volunteer of the Year.

    Joe Delaney, Buddy Young, and Geraldine Young represent the best of humanity. They inspire me to be a better person.

  22. I remember this all too well. It’s sad. A friend of mine was in training camp with the Dolphins that year and he talked about it when he got home. The team was devastated. Kudos to you Florio for running this every year. He should not be forgotten.

    Joe was a role model and a hero. The NFL should do something every year and try to inspire others to be more cognizant of others instead of being egomaniacs or those who are always in trouble with the law. If the NFL had more Joe Delaneys it’d be a lot more palatable to those of us who are sick and tired of all the knuckleheads.

  23. Feel pretty stupid that I’m 39 and an avid fan of the site and somehow I’m just now hearing about him but (selfishly?) feel like a slightly better person just reading about him, thank you.

  24. His name is on the Chiefs Ring of Honor in Arrowhead. He should be in Csnton but of course the NFL can’t get out of their own way when it comes to doing the right thing

  25. I was there the day this happened. They had dug a pond at the amusement park outside of the gates. Why it was not fenced off is beyond me. The water park the only one Monroe LA ever had was closed due to the lawsuits. However ya have to wonder why in the world parents let these kids swim in a mud hole? Admission to the park was 3 bucks. This was outside the gates and a unfinished muddy pond only 6 ft deep.

  26. A group of Chiefs fans in Kansas City formed the “37Forever Foundation”, which works with the American Red Cross to provide swimming lessons for underprivileged children.[6][8][16] The Kansas City Chiefs unofficially retired Delaney’s jersey number 37 following his death,[16][19] and he was elected to the team’s Hall of Fame in 2004.[2] His name is included in the Chiefs’ ring of honor at Arrowhead Stadium

  27. I’d love to know who is hitting all the thumbs down. I’d like to meet them, and especially their parents and other family members. I’d like to make sure their kids are being cared for properly. You know, human stuff that all caring and intelligent human beings should carry in their hearts and souls. Whoever you are, glad I don’t know you, and really glad that I don’t live next door to you and didn’t grow up or go to school with you.

  28. This is the best article you post on PFT…..and you post it every year!!

    Very well done.

  29. Got me choked up, I do not remember hearing about this, I was pretty young then but now I will never forget this.

  30. Raiders fan, and a bit too young to have ever seen Joe play, but this is one of the most impactful stories I’ve heard in sports. He’s the kind of guy, the kind of story that transcends rivalries and even sports altogether. Glad to see you guys covering it.

  31. Love one another and no greater love to lay down your life for someone. Joe Delaney = Awesome Human!

  32. Bl00dwerK says:

    June 29, 2018 at 5:17 am

    Hero. Anyone know how things turned out for the life he saved?

    From the last I remember reading about him not good. I think he’s been in some trouble more than a few times. Unless he’s moved to another city he lives a little less than an hour away from me.

  33. Thank you Mike, I remember Joe, and I remember this tragic story. Your dedication to making sure Joe and his story are not forgotten is very classy. God bless you and this young brother who cared more about another’s young life then his own life. Our world needs so many more like him today.

  34. God Bless you Joe. I get a tear in my eye every time I hear your story. You are a true hero. As it has been said before “The greatest give a man can give is to lay down his life for a friend” You Sir did it for a stranger. Thank you.

  35. I can’t even think of words to appropriately describe the act of courage by Joe Delaney. It’s too bad he didn’t live longer, he obviously had a lot to offer.

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