27 years ago today, the Kansas City Chiefs lost one of the most promising young players the franchise has ever seen. Joe Delaney drowned when he tried to save the lives of three boys in a pond in Louisiana. For the large number of Chiefs fans that weren’t lucky enough to see Delaney play, Bob Gretz describes the type of player he was.
When you think of Joe Delaney, think of Jamaal Charles, but 15 pounds lighter. They had the same type of bodies – slender build and strong legs that could get up to speed in the snap of a finger. They were both top flight sprinters in college. Charles 100-meter dash time of 10.27 seconds at Texas would have just nosed out the 10.3 seconds that Delaney ran the distance in at Northwest Louisiana. But in the 200 meters, Delaney’s best time of 20.6 seconds was a half-step ahead of Charles at 21.02 seconds.
Charles shares another trait with Delaney – toughness. Neither one was a track guy playing football. They were football players that ran track. Delaney was never afraid to stick his head into the middle of the line and take a shot, just as Charles is always ready to handle the running game between the tackles. During his short career, Delaney had to deal with several injuries, largely due to the fact that his body was not always equal to his heart. The most serious was a detached retina in his eye that required surgery in 1982 that was done at John Hopkins in Baltimore.
As Chiefs fans started to learn last year with Charles, any time the ball was in his hands, something big could happen. It was the same with Delaney. If there was a crack in the scrum at the line of scrimmage, there was almost a collective inhale by those watching at Arrowhead. The exhale came when No. 37 came sprinting through the opening.
Gretz also describes a very personal side of Delaney that I imagine only a few people in the country would be able to write about. Just a fantastic read all around on a day that should be spent recognizing not just how good Delaney was on the field, but the amazing selflessness he showed that day in Monroe.