Remembering Joe Delaney, 36 years later

Getty Images

For many years now, we’ve remembered Joe Delaney on the anniversary of his death. This time, it’s got a slightly different feel, given that the team for which he played — the Chiefs — has had a bit of a rough stretch when it comes to player character issues.

But today the focus is on Delaney. Thirty-six years ago on Saturday, Delaney saw a trio of children drowning, and he acted.

I can’t swim good,” Delaney said, rushing to the water, “‘but I’ve got to save those kids.'”

He save one, but two of them died in the water, with Delaney.

Joe Delaney, who would now be 60, entered the NFL in 1981, rushing for 1,121 yards and helping to lead the Chiefs to their first winning season since 1973. He was 24 when he died.

I’ll never forget Joe Delaney or the sacrifice he made. Every year at this time, I’ll write about Joe Delaney here. Inevitably, people will respond by explaining that they hadn’t previously heard about Joe Delaney.

Every football fan should know about Joe Delaney. Everyone, football fan or not, should know about him.

61 responses to “Remembering Joe Delaney, 36 years later

  1. I too am grateful that you post this every year, we don’t want to forget men like Joe Delaney.

  2. What a sad story about a kind, kind man. Make sure you click on the link to read the Frank Deford article. He was such a great writer. Mike, thank you for reminding all of us about Joe Delaney!

  3. To me, Joe Delaney was a person of the highest character — someone selfless who knew he might be sacrificing his own life but did so anyway in an attempt to help strangers in dire circumstances.

    Over the years, I’ve noted that the class of people least likely to show such high character are the rich and powerful people who own this country and control its politicians and policy-makers — i.e., those who care only about themselves. That simple fact is the main reason why the world we live in is in such a terrible state.

  4. It annoys me that there were many around and no one else was willing to help. There had to be people that knew how to swim there.

  5. It still boggles my mind that there are people who don’t know how to swim. That should be something taught to every kid. How many lives would that save?

  6. We talk a lot on here about GOATs, but to me this is what makes someone the greatest of all time. He could have went on to have a hall of fame career and all the money he would ever need. But that wasn’t what he was thinking about when he went into the water. That takes a special type of person. You’re the man, Joe!

  7. Thanks for posting this every year. Both fans and the NFL should never forget his heroic act. He was also one heck of a running back.

  8. Thanks for posting this every year. It’s increasingly more important every year to remember true hero’s who also happened to play in the NFL.

  9. On the day Walter Payton passed Jim Brown for the then all time rushing yardage record he brought up the Name of Joe Delaney in his postgame comments about doing this for all the great players that didn’t have a chance to. Kind of fitting for one of his peers to show him that level of respect on his own great day

  10. Thanks for this Mike. Can’t believe it’s been 36 years. A true hero who should not be forgotten. Joe’s story should carry on for generations.

  11. Thank you Mike, for remembering him and honoring his legacy of self-sacrifice.

    “Greater love hath no man….”

  12. Football players are for the most part not heroes. We love the game, and we know it’s a grind, but they’re doing it out of competitiveness and paycheck.

    Joe Delaney transcends that, he is a true hero. He is who we should all strive to be, giving his life out of the love for others.

  13. Put everything at risk with no thought at all other then the kids he was trying to save. Keep reminding us every year about this Hero, wish there was more people like Joe in the world.

  14. Maybe the NFL should have a wing in the Hall of Fame for heroes outside of the game to honor men like Joe Delaney and others the made the ultimate sacrifice. NFL players lost in WW2, other conflicts or off field deeds of heroism.

    Honor the worthy. If the Hall has room for OJ and Ray Lewis surely it has room for those that are actual heroes.

  15. It boggles my mind that some people on here are giving a “thumbs down” to positive comments about Joe Delaney. What kind of soulless monsters would do that?

  16. Was there in 1983 it was free admission to the park day and still people swimming in a 6 foot pond next to the park which was not part of the park. Sad part is LA still to this day is one of the worst states for children drowning despite free swimming lessons offered to kids,

  17. I played with a guy from Detriot in college who could not swim and was terrified of the water

    it shows the amazing character of a guy like Joe D to go in without hesitation and know that.

    He deserves some mention in the Hall for that solely.

  18. I remember when it happened and was saddened but so proud. I love it when “Stars” show great concern about their fellow man. This was before social media so this wasn’t done for fame…no tweets or instagram posts…just general concern for struggling kids. R.I.P Joe…..and thanks Mike.

  19. “Joe Delaney, who would now be 60”

    As someone who is 60 years old, stories like this always hit me hard. Just the luck of the draw I never ended in a situation that cost me my life or health much earlier in those 60 years.

    RIP Joe.

  20. I’d be interested to see a follow up on the life of the person he saved. Hope the kid has had a great life.

  21. Every year I say thank you for this article. He was such a very talented player that never got a chance to put up a bunch of stats and highlights. And he was an even finer human being. I am not a Chiefs fan and I guess is means I am old that I remember as if it was yesterday. I wish they would make a place for him in the hall of fame along side players that left the nfl to go in the military in wars and died, from pat tillman to ww2…the ultimate sacrifice…more meaningful than on the field exploits…I give PFT crap when you get it wrong and kudos when you get it right, this is definitely one of the top kudos.

  22. Great reminder of human courage and bravery. Joe Delaney should always be remembered. Thanks for posting this. Who in the world sees any reason to give this positive reminder a thumbs down?

  23. We always hear the talking heads using terms like “Hero” and “ultimate sacrifice” when it comes to sports and athletes. Those terms should be reserved for people like Joe Delaney.

  24. It boggles my mind that some people on here are giving a “thumbs down” to positive comments about Joe Delaney. What kind of soulless monsters would do that?

    They do so hoping to elicit a comment such as this so they can laugh and make themselves feel important, powerful and cool.
    Bad luck to them all.

  25. Mike, thanks for keeping this up each year. I am 53 and still remember reading about Joe and his heroic efforts. this was s real hero who gave himself up for others. he was a comet that only some of us saw… thanks again

  26. I don’t know why but each down vote on comments for positive and serious stories like this one – make me lose faith society. It’s probably 12 year kids and sociopaths. Nonetheless, it makes me sick. I for one am glad these posts continue to surface every year and I’ll celebrate the life and actions of Joe Delaney.

  27. I remembered this when I was a kid.

    Another hero to remember like this is the Patriots’ Marquise Hill. He saved a girl’s life in Lake Pontchartrain by getting her to a buoy and telling her to hang on after they fell off their jet ski. Unfortunately, neither were wearing a life vest, but he sacrificed himself to save her.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!