Anyone who is familiar with Joe Delaney is aware of his athletic prowess, so I don't need to dwell on it here. He was a football and track star in high school and college and was the rookie of the year in the NFL. That's not what this is about.
My 13-year-old son and I watch a lot of sports on television. Both he and his younger sister play a lot of sports in school. My son and I both watch in awe at the athletic skills at so many of today's athletes.
That, however, is where it stops. I would never allow my children to have a "sports hero", for lack of a better term. I often hear how athletes are role models. I think that's misguided, dangerous and flat out silly.
I teach them that real hero's are their mother, me, their teachers, some, though very few anymore, people who run our country, police who come into their school and talk to them and others along those lines.
I did, however, sit with them this summer and tell them all about Joe Delaney and read many of the details to them.
I told them that he was a very simple man from a small town in Louisiana. He would come back and cut his neighbors lawn, give sneakers out to the neighborhood and never cashed his paychecks. He simply gave them to his wife so she could take care of his girls.
Then, on June 29, 1983 Joe Delaney performed an act so brave, so selfless that none of us can even imagine it.
His wife had said she never saw him so much as "doggie paddle" or put his toe in the water.
Sitting near a man-made pond he heard three boys who were calling out for help, obviously in serious trouble in the 20' deep water. He never hesitated. He jumped up, sprinted into the water to try to save the three boys.
Amazingly, there were many other people close by, who did nothing.
The one man who couldn't swim at all, never gave it a second thought.
Joe saved one of the boys, and another died when he got to the hospital. Joe Delaney and the third boy died in the water that night.
This man, I told my children, is a hero in every sense of the word. He never thought about his own safety. The only thing that motivated him was someone else being in trouble and he had to do something to help them.
Joe Delaney was a special person. He is a person that transcends sports. I would feel that same way about him no matter what team he played for.
He made sports seems very, very trivial.