The crew of nearly a dozen filmmakers from Los Angeles, Shreveport and Nashville spent nearly five hours doing interviews and shooting footage at the NSU Athletic Fieldhouse, along with Turpin Stadium, where Delaney was a two-time All-America running back in 1979-80 for the Demons, and the Walter P. Ledet Track Complex, where Delaney, Mark Duper, Victor Oatis and Mario Johnson competed before capturing the 1981 NCAA championship in the 4x100 meter relay, earning All-America honors.
They also got shots of some current-day Demon football players working out on their own inside Turpin Stadium, as the 2014 NSU team prepares for the start of preseason camp in just over four weeks.
Heading the film crew was producer Grant Curtis, most recently an executive producer for 2013’s well-received “Oz the Great and Powerful” film, a producer on the “Spiderman” series of three hit movies and the producer of the 2000 supernatural thriller film “The Gift” starring Cate Blanchett and co-written by Billy Bob Thornton.
Two of Delaney’s teammates at NSU, Jack “Britt” Brittain Jr. and Van Kyzar, were extensively interviewed about Delaney.
The crew is slated to interview Delaney’s widow, Carolyn, and his college coach at Northwestern, A.L. Williams, among others on Tuesday.
Production is expected to continue for several weeks. No tentative air date has been set for the feature, which may be distributed on multiple ESPN platforms.
ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 documentary series has been nominated for television’s highest honor, the Emmy Award. The series highlights important people in the sports world and sports history from the point of view of feature filmmakers.
Delaney was the 1981 AFC Rookie of the Year for the Chiefs and played in the Pro Bowl. Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy, who drafted Delaney in the second round of the 1981 draft and coached him in 1981-82, said Delaney was one of the five best players he coached in his 45-year career, including nearly 30 years in the NFL.
Delaney died June 29, 1983 trying to save three children from drowning in a pond at an amusement park in Monroe.
One survived. Delaney left behind his wife and their three young daughters. His heroic act matched his selfless lifestyle and coupled with his astounding athletic career to make him an instant icon in north Louisiana far beyond the sports world.
His No. 44 Demon football jersey was retired at halftime of his final game at NSU. Since his death, no Kansas City player has worn his No. 37.
He is immortalized in several ways at Northwestern, including plaques at Turpin Stadium and the Ledet Complex, and with the permanent football team captains receiving Joe Delaney Memorial Leadership Awards annually. The Demons’ spring football game has been known as the Joe Delaney Bowl since 1989 and an award in his name goes each year to an outstanding supporter of NSU Athletics.
Delaney was posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizen’s Medal from President Ronald Reagan, presented by then Vice President George H.W. Bush to the Delaney family. Delaney is enshrined in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame and the Chiefs’ Ring of Honor at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.