On this date in 1983, the Kansas City Chiefs and the football world were shocked to hear Joe Delaney had died. He had been a lightning rod of excitement for two years as their featured back after being drafted out of Northwestern State. The Chiefs franchise had been down for the better part of a decade when Delaney burst onto the scene in 1981.
He ran for 1,121 yards on 234 carries with 3 TDs while winning AFC Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl honors. He was the team’s lone legitimate star. He set the Chiefs all time rushing record of 196 yards against the Houston Oilers with Earl Campbell on the other sideline.
The strike shortened year of 1982 saw his numbers cut down significantly having only played 9 games. He was nicked with injuries and defenses were better prepared for him as he rushed for only 380 yards. He had the same injury that Sugar Ray Leonard made famous a year earlier, a detached retina. Yet what was going to be a bounce back year in 1983 for him didn’t come to be.
Aside from his untimely death, it’s sad to think what might have been. How great could he have possibly become as a player, father, or man of his community. As you’ll see in the short film he was one to donate his time to the youth of Houghton, Louisiana.
His loss was felt all around the NFL as teammates and foe alike all pondered what might have been. On October 7, 1984 at the press conference when Walter Payton broke Jim Brown’s NFL All Time rushing record, Joe Delaney’s name was the first he mentioned when he spoke of those with the same spirit that were unable to complete their careers who died before their time.
Joe Delaney left us 29 years ago today. His number 37 was retired for the Kansas City Chiefs and his #44 from Northwestern State was also retired. He was enshrined in the Chief’s Ring of Honor and team Hall of Fame. Gone but never forgotten and definitely a hero always.
Dedicated in remembrance of Joe Delaney (October 30, 1958 – June 29, 1983)
He could fly, I remember him coming into the league never knew he had that kind of speed, Haughton, La. is also Dak Prescott’s
hometown, he seems to show the same degree of humility that Joe had.
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Yeah.. Joe was something special and Dak is on his way
Joe Delaney was a great one. He also was a member of the NCAA National Champion 4 X 110 Relay Team along with Miami Dolphin great Mark Duper at Northwestern University. Delaney (a 10.2 100 meter sprinter) also had world class speed. He was faster than any back in the league today including Chris Johnson. Delaney, unbenounced to many is responsible for ending the career of Dallas Cowboy linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson. Miami Dolphin coach Don Shula had brought Thomas in to Miami to play middle linebacker. Henderson was an outside linebacker but Shula moved him into the middle because of his reputation of being a fierce hitter. Thomas and Delaney met each other in the open field. Henderson brought him down, but he hit Joe in the strongest part of his body. A pumping thigh caught Henderson in the face mask. Thomas left the field with a broken neck. He never played again and the rest is history. The talent of old is highly under-rated. Both Henderson, because of his unique speed and ability to make big plays and Delaney, because of his diversity would still be superstars in today’s game.
Joe Delaney will never be forgotten to the football purest.,
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Didn’t know that…I knew he was fast but didn’t know he was that fast. nor did I know about that meeting with Hollywood Henderson. Nice! Thanks for dropping some knowledge on things.
Reblogged this on Taylor Blitz Times and commented:
How much do you know of true heroes of the NFL and it’s past?? Not just those who exemplified excellence on the field but carried themselves in a noble way when they were off of it. One such hero would be turning 54 years old tomorrow (Oct. 30th) had he not made the ultimate sacrifice trying to save kids who couldn’t swim even though he couldn’t swim himself. His death set the Kansas City Chiefs franchise back a few years and his loss was felt around the NFL. It touched the lives of those in the Missouri area and stretched all the way to his hometown of Haughton, Louisiana. It also affected a kid growing up in Columbus, Ohio who couldn’t understand that type of sacrifice at the time and never forgot Joe Delaney for it. Gone but not forgotten. Happy Birthday Joe…