Sam Schneider | June 8th, 2020
Ken Riley, the Hall of Famer who is not in the Hall of Fame, passed away yesterday at the age of 72. Anyone outside of Cincinnati likely skipped over the headline or said, “Who is Ken Riley?”, which is not a surprise to many… least of all the man himself.
On his potential to be enshrined in Canton, Riley said “I’ve always thought your work would speak for you. It’s like it’s working against me now because the older you get and the longer you stay out of it, people forget who you are.”
Cincinnati has not forgotten.
Ken Riley was one of the greatest @bengals players who over his 15 year career finished with 65 interceptions which still ranks top 5 all time. R.I.P, “The Rattler” was one of the best ever. 🙏✨ pic.twitter.com/Na1zq9VX6y
— Solomon Wilcots (@SolomonsWisdom) June 7, 2020
We mourn the passing of one of the greatest Bengals ever, Ken Riley (1947-2020). In 15 seasons with the team, Ken accumulated the fifth-most interceptions in NFL history and was selected as an All-Pro three times. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this time. pic.twitter.com/e2AXAAi3Kw
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) June 7, 2020
Saddened by the passing of my friend and former teammate Ken Riley. One of the best Bengals of all time, not only a great player but more importantly a great man. RIP Ken Riley
— Ken Anderson (@KenAndersonNFL) June 7, 2020
Position Change in NFL
The former quarterback from Florida A&M (which earned him the affectionate nickname “The Rattler”), Riley was converted to cornerback by Paul Brown after selecting him in round six of the 1969 draft. In a full career with the Bengals, he intercepted an astounding 65 passes (596 return yards and five returned for touchdowns)which is good for a tie for 5th all-time and had 18 fumble recoveries over 15 seasons. Only three of those 15 seasons did he finish with less than three interceptions. He was an integral part of the Bengals’ march to the Super Bowl after the 1981 season in which he nabbed five picks.
Miraculously never named to a Pro Bowl, Riley was selected as All-Pro three times, the last of which came following the 1983 season, which would be his swan song. At age 36, he snagged eight picks, scooped up two fumbles, and found himself in the end zone twice. It would be the last year of his playing career before moving to the sideline and eventually being hired as the head coach of his alma mater after a short stint as an NFL assistant.
All four interception leaders ahead of him have busts in Canton. The two players behind him do, too. The player that he is tied with at number five is Charles Woodson (eligible next year) who will most certainly get in as well. Riley is another player who the Hall of Fame Selection Committee has victimized for playing in a small market and/or wearing orange and black. Names like Bob Johnson, Willie Anderson, the great Kenny Anderson, and two different players who wore #85 await the call, among others.
Riley was an amazing player and (by all accounts) a better person. It is quite possible that he may be inducted to the Hall of Fame posthumously, and deservedly so. If he does, there will be players from multiple teams to stand and cheer, led by former Bengals.
It’s just a shame he’ll never get to don the gold jacket.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images