The Cincinnati Bengals lost a legend on Sunday morning, as it was announced that former cornerback Ken Riley had died at age 72. Riley is the Bengals' all-time interceptions leader with 65 -- which is tied with Charles Woodson for fifth all-time in the NFL. He spent all 15 of his NFL seasons, spanning three decades (1969-83), in Cincinnati.
Riley was a four-year starter at quarterback during his college days at Florida A&M, and also succeeded off of the field. He was a Rhodes Scholar candidate and was the senior class president in both high school and college. After his playing days, he returned to Florida A&M to serve as head coach from 1986 to 1993 and later became the school's athletics director.
"I woke up this morning with a heavy heart as I learned of the passing of FAMU and NFL great Ken Riley," FAMU football head coach Willie Simmons said. "Coach Riley was one of the first to welcome me to the FAMULY and having him speak to our team before our first Orange and Green game is definitely at the top of my list of unforgettable moments as head coach here at FAMU. My deepest condolences go out to his family and we as football community will surely honor his memory."
Riley was selected in the sixth round of the 1969 NFL Draft, and legendary head coach Paul Brown made the decision to convert Riley into a cornerback. He made almost an immediate impact on defense, as during his rookie season, Riley racked up four interceptions and returned 14 kickoffs for an average of 23.9 yards per return.
In 1976, Riley recorded nine interceptions for 141 yards -- a team record that stood for 30 years. His 65 interceptions in 207 career games is going to be a franchise record that may never be broken, yet he was still waiting to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"He was a good man. He was one of our greatest athletes and person," Florida A&M Sports Hall of Fame chairman Alvin Hollins told the Tallahassee Democrat. "Ken showed tremendous leadership as a student and a quarterback. The only regret is that he didn't get in the Pro Football Hall of Fame before he passed. Several of the players he coached made it to the NFL. We had great success with him as a coach and athletics director."
Many believe Riley deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame considering his records as well as his longevity, but he never complained.
"Your works speaks for you," Riley had said about making the Hall. "If it's God's will, maybe one day it will happen."