Jason Lisk has tweeted that it has been 30 years since Joe Delaney perished trying to save three boys from drowning. And yes, the tragedy of that day strikes me. What strikes me as much, though, is that I was in the same high school as he was, one class ahead of Joe, and if, on my last day of high school, you had mentioned his name, I would have said, “Joe who?”
See, he wasn’t branded as a star in our school. The running back for the team, usually the star, was Sonny Lewis. People were still talking about the team in 1972, the one that went to the state semifinals and lost to Denham Springs. Players from those years, guys like quarterback Gene Couvillion, whose family lived up the road from us, or Arry Moody, a running back and routinely described as the most talented player anyone in those parts had ever seen, were the ones folks talked about. Lets make this clear. In high school get togethers, people still talk about Arry Moody. I was in band in those years. I saw every high school game. Gene had a strong arm and could have played college ball.
By the time of Joe’s freshman and sophomore years, he must have been playing wide receiver. We didn’t have good quarterbacks. There wouldn’t have been much stardom for a skinny fast kid. I’m saying skinny because I’ve seen Joe’s photos once he was a Chief, and nobody was built like that in high school. I say fast because I recall a quote in Sports Illustrated by Houston’s Bill Yeoman, to the effect that everyone knew about a kid running a 100 yard dash in well under 10 seconds, but no one could get near him.
I can vouch for the hard core influence of Northwest Louisiana University in our area. The local golf course was owned by a retired Northwest Louisiana coach. Looking around the Internet for that Yeoman quote, I find a short blurb from the October 31, 1978 Tuscaloosa News instead, which goes:
Joe Delaney, Northwestern Louisiana’s sophomore running back, made only his second start Saturday and rushed for 299 yards…
So, given the physique I see in his post high school years, the amazing performances in his college years, I can only assume he was a product of his college system. He went to college and paid the price required to star there.
Gene Couvillion? He went to Louisiana Tech and balked at being redshirted. Arry Moody? You would hear occasional mentions of his presence at Tech, or later on, with the minor league Shreveport Steamer, but nothing approaching the hero worship of his high school years.
If I look on Facebook, I find a guy called Arry Moody, with over a 1,000 friends, Haughton area. 5 of my friends are also his friends. Seems to be doing fine, and I wish him luck.
But what drove Joe that didn’t drive the others? What made him able to endure the college grind and even prosper? I know that people almost eternally ponder the tragedy of it all, but for me, the mystery of his success is equally as ponderable.