Last week I spent over an hour talking on camera with the film crew that is putting together the ESPN 30-for-30 series program on former Chiefs running back Joe Delaney.
Based on the questions I was asked by the producers and the other people that were on the interview list this will be a strong feature that will expose the entire country to Delaney’s story. The questions ranged from his time growing up and living in Haughton, Louisiana, to college at Northwest Louisiana State University and then NFL with the Chiefs. The ending is still a sad one, as Delaney’s died in a construction pond in Monroe, Louisiana where 31 years ago (June 29th) he tried to save three boys that were in trouble. Delaney drowned; he did not know how to swim.
Turns out, the producers behind this project are long-time Chiefs fans, Grant Curtis and Jeremy Wheeler. They are natives to the area; Curtis grew up in Warrensburg, Missouri and was a huge Royals-Chiefs fan over the years. Wheeler is the son of former Chiefs executive Mitch Wheeler the chance to grow up around the team as a child.
Curtis has quite a resume as a producer. Most recently he was one of the executive producers of the 2013 film Oz the Great and Powerful and he served as producer for the three most recent Spiderman movies. He’s worked extensively with director Sam Raimi and has done dozens of documentaries over his career since graduating with from the Central Missouri State University.
This story is one he has wanted to tell for years.
“I was an 11-year old Chiefs fan when Joe passed away,” Curtis said. “His story has remained with me to this day because it is so special and I’m honored to be able to tell it.
“Joe was a true hero β not a fictional one that we want on the silver screen.”
In his rookie season, Delaney was part of the spark that pushed the Chiefs to a 9-7 record and contention for a spot in the AFC playoffs. The team had not had a winning record for eight years and had not contended for a spot in the post-season in 10 years.
Delaney played 23 games for the Chiefs, with 329 carries for 1,501 yards, but only three touchdowns. His 82-yard run remains one of the longest in club history. He also caught 33 passes for 299 yards.
In that 1981 rookie season, he was named starter in the Pro Bowl after gaining 1,121 yards on 234 carries. His teammates voted him the team’s most valuable player. He was one of three rookies that season that eventually landed in the Chiefs Hall of Fame, joined by safeties Deron Cherry and Lloyd Burruss. Delaney was also named the AFC’s offensive rookie of the year.
His second season was compromised by a 57-day NFL players strike that cut the season to nine games. Plus, Delaney was suffering from two detached retinas, one in each eye that ultimately required surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Months after the surgery, Delaney felt his eye sight was improving on an almost daily basis.
But he did not get the chance to prove that on the field. It’s all part of a story being put together that should see an air-time this fall. ESPN’s 30-for-30 series has been around the network and its other television and internet properties since 2009. There have been 839 films done, from one-hour documentaries, to shorter films.
Based on the research that went into the questions Curtis and Wheeler asked, count on the story of Joe Delaney being a complete and well-done production.