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No Ordinary Joe
Rick Reilly
July 07, 2003
Why in creation did Joe Delaney jump into that pit full of water that day?
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July 07, 2003

No Ordinary Joe

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Why in creation did Joe Delaney jump into that pit full of water that day?

Why in the world would the AFC's best young running back try to save three drowning boys when he himself couldn't swim?

Nobody—not his wife, not his mother—had ever seen him so much as dog-paddle. A year and a half earlier, when he went to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii as the AFC's starting halfback and Rookie of the Year, he never set even a pinkie toe in the ocean or the pool. "Never had," says his wife, Carolyn, who'd known Joe since they were both seven. "In all my years, I never had seen him swim."

So why? Why did the 24-year-old Kansas City Chief try to save three boys he didn't know with a skill he didn't have?

He'd been sitting in the cool shade of a tree on a tar-bubbling afternoon at Chennault Park, a public recreation area in Monroe, La., when he heard voices calling, "Help! Help!" He popped up like a Bobo doll and sprinted toward the pit.

What made Delaney that kind of person? Why did he mow that lonely woman's lawn when he was back home in Haughton, La., rich as he was? Why did he check in on that old man every day he was in town? Why did he show up on the Haughton streets one day with a bag full of new shoes and clothes for kids whose names he'd never heard?

Why could he never think of anything that he wanted for himself? Why didn't he even make a Christmas list? The man never cashed a paycheck in his life. He would throw his checks on top of the TV for his wife. "Don't you want nothing for yourself?" Carolyn would ask Joe.

"Nah," he'd say. "You just take care of you and the girls."

"Nothing?"

"Well, if you could give me a little pocket change for the week, I'd appreciate it."

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