A Vancouver man is tearfully being hailed as a hero after he selflessly and instinctively saved his wife and unborn child from an oncoming car, according to MSNBC. In the state of Washington, a Chevy Blazer swerved into oncoming traffic and was going straight for the car of Brian Wood and his wife Erin. A successful game programmer, Brian was 33 and was excited to be having the couple’s first child in November. Brian swerved the car hard to the right so the Blazer would hit the driver’s side of the car instead of head on.
“It’s pretty obvious if you look at the car…we both would have been killed,” Brian’s wife tearfully recalled on the Today show.
With more and more media attention and blogs, everyday heroes come up all of the time. One such hero in my mind is a football player who died in the prime of his career. Joe Delaney was the running back for the Kansas City Chiefs at age 24, living in small town Haughton, Louisiana. Frank DeFord’s touching recount of his tragic yet heroic death is chronicled here in Sports Illustrated.
He was in a park on a summer day relaxing when three boys were in trouble. Even though he couldn’t swim, Delaney was the first person who dove into the manmade pool of water. He said to someone as he went in to save the boys, “If I don’t come up, get somebody.”
A few minutes later, two of the three boys were drowned as well as Delaney. The third had either made it to shallow water or had been pulled up by the star running back. At the funeral, 3,000 people attended on the hottest day of the year, July 4, 1983.
Years later, Sports Illustrated caught up with the boy who was saved. LeMarkits Holland was racked with guilt over the deaths as he idolized his older brother Harry. He would have traded his life in an instant to save his brother and cousin, who had perished.
Delaney’s widow raised their three daughters, who have grown up and given her grandchildren. The 37 Forever Foundation gives swimming lessons to inner city kids. The Number 37 has never been worn by a member of the Kansas City Chiefs since that hot summer day, when a hero, who knew what might happen, went in to save three complete strangers who hadn’t yet lived a full life.
Delaney was the AFC Rookie of the Year in 1981 after gaining more than 1,100 yards rushing. His NFL career was just beginning, and he died just a week short of his 25th birthday. All throughout his life, eulogizers called him someone who gave to everyone without a thought to himself.
Joe Delaney was a superstar. Brian Wood was also well-known in the computer gaming world. Both men lived selfless lives to the end, and will always be remembered as such in my mind. Their stories are sad not because of the lives they touched, but because heroes like these two men don’t come around often. If I were in the same situation as either Delaney or Wood, I don’t know if I would have been able to do the same thing.
MSNBC and Sports Illustrated contributed information for this article.