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Albany captain, defensive end has battled disabilities and defied all odds
Albany defensive end Eddie Delaney has lived with both a physical deformity and diabetes for most of his life, but this hasn’t stopped him from reaching his dream.
Put yourself in the shoes of a Division I defensive end. Imagine walking up to the line of scrimmage and staring into the eyes of a 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive tackle whose sole job is to manhandle you. Think about having to bull-rush, outmaneuver, and evade multiple blockers in pursuit of a quarterback on every passing down. Imagine the task of shedding blockers and tackling running backs who have a head of steam and are quicker than you are.
Now try to imagine doing all that with only one hand.
That is exactly what Albany senior defensive end Eddie Delaney has done his entire football career.
Eddie Delaney, a native of Holtsville, N.Y., was born with a nub that extends just below his left elbow. As if overcoming that wasn’t enough, Delaney was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of six and now wears an insulin pump on his leg. However, Delaney has refused to allow his physical disability, which he never hides, to get in his way. Instead, Delaney has become one of Albany’s starting defensive ends, a captain and perhaps one of the best football players in the D-I AA Northeast Conference.
If you can say anything about Eddie Delaney, it is that he is an extremely driven individual. He always strives to excel—and never lets his disability stand in his way.
“He never, ever, offers [his disability] as an excuse,” Albany head coach Bob Ford said.
Delaney believes much of this attitude should be credited to his parents, Suzanne and Ed Delaney, who is the vice president of operations at the YES network. They raised him as if he didn’t have a disability.
“They always pushed me to do what I wanted,” Delaney said of his parents. “They never said that I had to do anything, but they never told me I couldn’t do anything. They were a big part in creating the attitude that I have today.”
Before going to Albany, Delaney was a two-sport athlete at Sachem East High School on Long Island. In addition to playing football as both a defensive lineman and offensive guard, Delaney was also an accomplished lacrosse goalie. In his senior year, Delaney was named to the All-Suffolk County football team after accumulating 76 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, and three blocked kicks.
It would have been easy, and understandable, for Delaney to focus on things besides football once he went to college. However, Delaney loved the game of football too much to not at least give it a shot.
“After my last football game in high school, I knew there was no way I could stop doing this,” Delaney said. “I was going to do anything that I could to play at the next level.”
Why did Albany give Delaney, an undersized defensive lineman with a disability, a shot to play D-I football?
Ford, who has been the architect of the football program since 1970, gave Delaney an opportunity to make the team as a walk-on because he had seen a young man, John Hamp, overcome exactly the same disability when he was a coach at Springfield College.
“Hamp became an outstanding offensive lineman and he had the same thing as Eddie,” Ford said. “Because I had had a kid like that already, I thought, ‘Who knows?’” Delaney has clearly made the most of the opportunity given to him.
His development while playing for the Great Danes has been the result of luck and hard work. Delaney—who began college at 6-foot-3 and between 205-210 lbs—smaller than the current size of Columbia’s kicker Luke Eddy—is now listed at 6-foot-6 and 250 lbs. While his growth spurt was a stroke of pure luck, Delaney gained the weight by intensely building muscle in the gym.
“I thought I worked out hard in high school but I guess I didn’t know what working out hard meant until I came here,” Delaney said. “I fell in love with the weight program. I really bought into it.”
“If you walked into our weight room, you’d say, ‘Boy, they work hard!’ but you’d see Eddie Delaney and say he’s working just as hard as anybody in there,” Ford said.
Delaney’s technique has also improved dramatically during his college career. “He’s consistently getting better as a pass rusher, as a run stopper, as a pursuit guy and in his understanding of the game of football,” Ford said.
“My technique has improved the most,” Delaney said. “Early on I used to run around blocks. My strength has definitely helped me as a football player. I can do things now pretty easily that a few years ago would have taken a lot more stress on my body.”
This season Delaney hopes to improve his pass-rushing abilities. “I do a lot of good things in practice but sometimes I don’t carry that technique into games as well as I can,” he said. “I’m not really a big stats guy, but my goal is to rack up a few more sacks this season.”
In the offseason Delaney was elected by his teammates to serve as a captain and hopes to lead by example. One might expect his sheer presence to serve as motivation for the team.
“I always try and do the right thing,” Delaney said. “Throughout the preseason, throughout practice, there will be times when I feel a little tired or a little down, but I try to pick myself up and project a positive attitude 24/7 so my teammates can follow.”
Let’s not allow Delaney’s remarkable story to overshadow the fact that he is a tremendously talented football player. Going into 2011, Delaney was selected as a preseason first-team All-NEC defensive end by Phil Steele. After redshirting his freshman season, Delaney was selected to the second-team All-NEC team in both 2008 and 2010. In each of his three seasons, Delaney has accumulated at least 30 tackles.
On the football field, Delaney is once again defined by his tenacious drive.
“He’s got a great motor,” Ford said. “Once the play begins, Eddie never stops. He just goes as hard as he possibly can till the whistle blows.”
Considering his aggressiveness and the struggles the Lions’ offensive line had against Fordham, Delaney could be in store for a big game on Saturday.
Delaney has also devoted himself to noteworthy and commendable pursuits off the football field: He has taken a large role in an effort to raise money and awareness for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and he has spoken to Sugar Free Zone, a group made up of children with diabetes. In the future, Delaney would also like to help create workout plans, many of which he has already developed on his own, to help children overcome disabilities in the same way he did.
There is little doubt that Eddie Delaney’s story has been and will continue to be an inspiration to all those who learn of it.
By Spencer Gyory, Columbia Spectator