#2 – Joe Delaney, Running Back
The Kansas City Chiefs made a franchise altering selection when, with the 41st selection in the 1981 draft, they took Northwestern State running back Joe Delaney to carry the rock for the long down-trodden franchise.
Delaney burst on to the scene in the 1981 season, gaining 1121 yards on the ground and scoring three touchdowns. He added another 246 yards receiving. For his efforts, Delaney was named to the Pro Bowl team, was the AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year, and led the Chiefs to their first winning season since 1973.
Delaney would set four franchise records which would last for over 20 years for Kanas City, including: most yards in a season, most yards in a game (193), most consecutive 100-yard games (3), and most 100-yard games in a seasons (5).
Pro Football Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea said of Delaney, “I’ve played against the best–O.J. Simpson, Gale Sayers, Walter Payton and (Delaney) ranks right up there with them … He is great with a capital G.”
Delaney’s life tragically and heroically came to an end in 1983, when he lost his life trying to save the lives of three local children who were drowning, despite the fact that he himself could not swim. Only one of the children survived while Delaney and the two other children both passed away.
President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded Delaney with the Presidential Citizens Medal and said of Joe that “He made the ultimate sacrifice by placing the lives of three children above regard for his own safety. By the supreme example of courage and compassion, this brilliantly gifted young man left a spiritual legacy for his fellow Americans.”
While the world will never know where Delaney’s on the field legacy would have gone, it is undeniable that his on the field talent was transcendent and his legacy in the hearts and minds of Kansas City will live on forever.