By Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
NATCHITOCHES – Nearly four decades after his death, Joe Delaney’s impact continues to resonate in his professional hometown of Kansas City, Missouri.
The Missouri Department of Transportation, earlier this month, approved an application for a two-mile stretch of I-435 that encircles the Kansas City area to be named the Joe Delaney Memorial Highway.
The area encompassed in that stretch runs from Missouri Highway 350 continuing to Raytown Road, taking travelers past Arrowhead Stadium where Delaney starred for the Kansas City Chiefs for two seasons before drowning in an attempt to save three children in a pond near Monroe on June 29, 1983.
Delaney, a two-sport All-American at Northwestern State who helped the Demons win the national 4×100 relay championship in 1981, was the 1981 AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Chiefs after rushing for 1,121 yards and three touchdowns while catching 22 passes for 246 yards.
His 3,047 career rushing yards were a school record at the time his career finished and remain the fifth-highest total in school history. His 27 career rushing touchdowns were a school record for 20 years before being surpassed by Tony Taylor (32 TDs) in 2000. Delaney’s rushing touchdown total remains third in school history. Delaney’s 299-yard, four-touchdown explosion against Nicholls on Oct. 28, 1978, remains the school single-game standard for yards and shares the mark for rushing touchdowns 43 years later.
A product of Haughton High School, Delaney’s No. 44 jersey is retired at Northwestern State. He was inducted into the N-Club Hall of Fame in 1985 and into the Chiefs Ring of Honor in 2003.
Delaney was honored with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Ronald Reagan after Delaney’s death.
The renaming of the Missouri interstate loop – which was requested by Adam Jassey, who has worked extensively with the 37 Forever Foundation named in honor of Delaney’s jersey number with the Chiefs – is part of an 11-month stretch where Delaney’s memory has been in the spotlight in both Missouri and Louisiana.
The city of Monroe erected a monument to Delaney’s memory on June 27, 2020, holding a ceremony that was attended by members of the Delaney family and Delaney’s former teammates. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas then proclaimed Oct. 30, 2020, to be “Joe Delaney Day” in Kansas City – a day that would have been Delaney’s 62nd birthday.
— Featured photo courtesy of Northwestern State Athletics