The life of Joe Delaney is currently in the process of being documented in ESPN’s renowned 30 for 30 series as many of his teammates, coaches and loved ones talked about the man who displayed generosity and was a great athlete.
“I was impressed, that was a professional group,” former Demon wide receiver Jack “Britt” Brittain said.
Brittain and another one of Delaney’s former teammates---defensive tackle Van Kyzar---were interviewed in the documentary July 7 and had the chance to share their most fond moments of their former teammate.
“I had received quite a few e-mails back and forth to let me know what to expect,” Kyzar said. “I was also very impressed with the production-caliber of quality. I really did not realize going in that the professional level that this was coming from. Obviously, realizing that this was an ESPN production opened my eyes and certainly after I saw that this would be a top-notch program. I’m anxious to see the end result.”
While there is no airdate planned for the documentary at this time, it has been amazing to see what the production crew, led by Grant Curtis, has done in a short amount of time.
“It was interesting to hear Grant say that he had given the people at Disney six different story ideas and the Delaney story idea was that one that they picked,” NSU sports information director Doug Ireland said. “I don’t know what the other five were, but that attests to the power of this and how it resonates to any level of society whether you’re a sports fan or not.”
From 1977 to 1980, Delaney had an outstanding career on the gridiron with NSU, becoming the first of five running backs in program history to reach the 3000-yard plateau.
In his final home game as a Demon, Delaney’s jersey was retired, capping a career that saw him run for a school-record 299 yards---including an NCAA-record 263 yards--- and four touchdowns in 1978 against Nicholls State.
Also a skilled track athlete, he would help the school claim a national championship in the 4x100 relay event of the NCAA Division I outdoor track and field championships.
Yet, it was the man that Delaney was that drew people to him.
“It was an honor---big-time---for us to be a part of that,” Brittain said. “This is about Joe and his example that he set.”
Although his name and accomplishments remain etched in the school’s record books, Delaney was focused more on the team instead of himself.
“Today, it’s just a common thing to do something in the end zone when you score that it’s just regular,” Brittain said. “In our day, Joe Delaney never did that, because he didn’t want to take the attention away from those who got him there. As a teammate, you appreciate that they’re being considerate of you and your efforts to help them get there. That tells a lot about a person on a team.”
Delaney displayed that example by paying the ultimate price June 29, 1983 after trying to rescue three youth from drowning despite not being able to swim.
While one child survived, Delaney and the other two did not. Delaney was only 24 years old and was just two seasons into a promising NFL career that included him winning the AFC Rookie of the Year award in 1981.
“Joe didn’t rest on just talent itself, he did the right thing with his life,” Kyzar said. “Joe never wanted to do anything that could sidetrack him from reaching his goal. He got to the top in a short period of time, it’s unbelievable that from right here that we’d have the Rookie of the Year in professional football. Joe reached that pinnacle quickly. It sound cliché, but good guys can finish first.”
Delaney was posthumously named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.