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Remembering Joe Delaney, 35 years later


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.