It was on June 29, 1983 that Chiefs running back Joe Delaney died in a Louisiana construction pond.
Several generations of Chiefs fans have been born and raised on the exploits of the red and gold without having any understanding of what the team and the Chiefs Nation lost on that sweltering June day. The Chiefs have 89 players on their roster right now, waiting for the start of training camp in less than a month, and 80 of those players were not born when Delaney died trying to save three kids who had jumped into a pond left over from the construction of a nearby water park.
Delaney went in the water to save those kids even though he did not know how to swim. One child survived, another made it into an emergency room where he passed away. The third died in the water with Delaney.
Just months before that tragic day I had been with Delaney in his hometown of Haughton, Louisiana; that’s where he was recovering from surgery on a detached retina that limited his effectiveness during the 1982 season. Full sight in the eye had not yet returned, but that didn’t stop Joe from driving his car around the dusty streets of Haughton. The car also included a small television set, something that was quite out of the ordinary for the time. Joe would cruise the streets, hold a conversation and watch soap operas all at the same time and all with one eye. I never felt in danger in the passenger’s seat because Joe never got going more than 10 miles per hour in that car; he stopped and talked to everyone on the street or sitting on their porch.
With his passing the Chiefs did not lose just a talented running back. They lost one of the best teammates the guys in the locker room ever had. Even in his rookie season, Delaney became a leader of that team simply through his hard work, performance and his easy-going demeanor. He was always the first one in the locker room every day, sitting in front of his locker, drinking a cup of coffee and saying hello to everyone as they walked in while wearing a big smile.
R.I.P. Joe. We miss you.