June 29, 1983 - Today was a hot summer day in Monroe, Louisiana. Joe Delaney planned to enjoy an afternoon in the park. He was a football star who had been a two-time All-American and AFC Rookie of the Year in 1981. Far from the roaring crowds of the Kansas City Chiefs, Delaney found a shady spot and settled into his lawn chair.
Nearby, two pre-teen brothers and their cousin had waded into a muddy pond. The shallow edge of the water was deceiving as the bottom quickly dropped off into a cold abyss that was 20-feet deep. One by one the boys fell off the underwater cliff. None of them could swim, and neither could Delaney.
He heard the boys' screams and he sprung out of his lawn chair. As Delaney rushed to the pond he sent his friends for help. Without hesitating he took the plunge and quickly returned with the youngest of the brothers. Again he threw himself into the murky water, but he would never return.
One child was saved, but Joe Delaney and the other two boys would die that day.
Tributes immediately flowed in as word of Delaney's heroics spread across the country. President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded him with the Presidential Citizen's Medal. And while he only played 2 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, Delaney's number 37 was unofficially retired.
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. - President Ronald Reagan
For over twenty years following his death, a foundation started in Delaney's honor provided free swimming lessons for inner-city kids.