‘Delaney’ Airs Tonight on ESPN
Tonight is the global release of the film “Delaney,” part of ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 Shorts series.
It tells the remarkable story of the late, heroic two-sport All-American Demons’ star athlete Joe Delaney.
“Delaney” makes its debut at 10 a.m. Central Daylight Time on Wednesday on the ESPN platform, available for on-demand access through ESPN.com and Grantland.com, with specific TV viewing opportunities to be announced by the sports network. A handful of sneak previews were aired in July on ESPN Classic without any advance promotion.
The film tells the remarkable and heroic story of Delaney, the Haughton native, Northwestern State two-sport All-American and Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl running back who died in a 1983 attempt to rescue three drowning children. Delaney was a two-time All-America running back in 1979-80 for the Demons, and joined Mark Duper, Victor Oatis and Mario Johnson on the Demons’ 1981 NCAA championship 4x100 meter relay team, earning All-America honors.
The film was screened for an audience of 400 people on Aug. 4 in Natchitoches on the NSU campus, and a night later at three screenings for about 300 people in Shreveport. It was also screened in Kansas City on Aug. 3.
A crew of nearly a dozen filmmakers from Los Angeles, Shreveport and Nashville who visited Natchitoches, Haughton and other north Louisiana locations last July. They spent nearly five hours doing interviews and shooting footage at the NSU athletic complex.
ESPN Films' 30 for 30 Shorts series won television's highest honor, the Emmy Award, for “Outstanding Short-Format Nonfiction Program” in 2014. The series highlights important people in the sports world and sports history from the point of view of feature filmmakers.
“Delaney” producer Grant Curtis is currently an executive producer on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2” and was an executive producer for 2013's well-received "Oz the Great and Powerful.” He was a producer on the "Spiderman" triology starring Tobey Maguire and was an associate producer of the 2000 supernatural thriller "The Gift" starring Cate Blanchett and co-written by Billy Bob Thornton.
Co-producer Jeremy Wheeler is a writer for NFL Network who was an assistant to Curtis for six years. He will not be able to attend the screening events.
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, Carolyn, 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 Track 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 the Joe Delaney Distinguished Supporter Award goes each year to a leading backer of NSU Athletics.
Delaney was posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizen's Medal from President Ronald Reagan, presented at his funeral by then Vice President George H.W. Bush to the Delaney family. Delaney is enshrined in the N Club Hall of Fame, the Ark-La-Tex Museum of Champions, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame and the Chiefs' Ring of Honor at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.