Chiefs legend Joe Delaney honored with memorial near the site of heroic death

Former Chiefs legend Joe Delaney honored with a memorial near the site of his tragic death. 

In the second round of the 1981 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Northwestern State running back Joe Delaney. The rookie rushed for 1,121 yards that first year en route to a Pro Bowl selection and being named the AFC Rookie of the Year. He set the record (at the time) for the most yards in a season by a Chiefs rusher, and also recorded the most yards in a game (193) and the most consecutive 100 yards games (five).

Despite the early success, Delaney is not most remembered for his on-field production.

On June 29th, 1983—37 years ago today—Delaney was visiting an amusement park in Monroe, Louisiana with friends and came across three children drowning in a pond. Delaney, despite not being able to swim, dove in to save the children. Tragically, Delaney and two of the children perished in the accident. The third child, however, lived as a direct result of Delaney’s actions.

On Saturday, a memorial honoring Delaney for his heroism was erected in Chennault Park in Monroe, Louisiana to cement his legacy for generations to come.

Delaney will long be remembered as not only one of the most talented running backs in Chiefs history, but also as a hero who died the way he lived: serving others.

At the memorial unveiling and dedication, his family was joined by teammates and coaches from NSU as well as members of the Chiefs organization, including Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back Johnny Robinson.

According to the Monroe News-Star, “All excess money raised to construct the monument will be donated to the Delaney37Foundation”, an organization in Delaney’s honor which works with the American Red Cross to teach young children how to swim. Joe’s wife, Carolyn, spoke at the event:

“Joe was a person that would give his shirt off his back to you,” his widow, Carolyn, said. “He was a kindhearted person. He was also helping out people, and he didn’t worry about Joe himself. He just worried about making the people around him happy.”

Delaney was posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizen’s Award by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Former Governor of Louisiana Dave Treen posthumously awarded Delaney the Louisiana State Civilian Bravery Award, and he was also recognized with the NCAA Award of Valor. Delaney was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997 and is a member of the Chiefs Ring of Honor.

The memorial was constructed and unveiled during the 37th year since his tragic passing. Delaney wore No. 37 for Kansas City.

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