Bengals great Ken Riley dies at 72

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Ken Riley, a cornerback who spent his entire 15-year career with the Bengals and was a three-time All-Pro, has died at the age of 72.

Riley grew up in Bartow, Florida and was an excellent quarterback at Florida A&M, but after the Bengals selected him in the sixth round of the 1969 draft, they moved him to cornerback.

He thrived at his new position, grabbing four interceptions as a rookie and becoming a stalwart in the Bengals’ defense until he retired after the 1983 season. Even in his final year in the NFL, at age 36, he was playing at a high level, with eight interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

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.”

After retiring from the Bengals, Riley became the head coach at Florida A&M and had a 45-40-2 record in his eight seasons at his alma mater. He then retired as head coach and became the school’s athletic director for eight years.

15 responses to “Bengals great Ken Riley dies at 72

  1. RIP Ken Riley….

    Ken Riley, Bengal great and cornerback “too good” for the Hall Of Fame has passed this morning at 72. The Rattler played 15 seasons in the NFL and made multiple All Pro teams but ironically never a Pro Bowl. His career 65 interceptions ranked 4th all time when he retired in 1983 and still is tied for 5th with Charles Woodson today. He is a member of the Black College Hall Of Fame and also coached his Alma Mater Florida A/M for a time as well. I never met Ken but I felt like I knew him trying to get voters to listen to his case for the HOF and was really hoping the 100th class was his ticket in. Over the years, it became personal to me watching him get passed over for induction holding out hope that I would one day be in the crowd in Canton watching Ken get enshrined. Sadly, that will never happen. Still I want people to know how much Mr. Riley accomplished on this Earth in his 72 years and how he always seemed to carry himself with effortless grace and dignity. Take some time to look up this mans achievements, it’s remarkable. I wish Mr. Riley’s family and friends my sincerest condolences.

  2. Wow. RIP. Before my time but I know my Bengals history. What a legend and it’s a travesty he isnt in the HOF.

  3. I think if he had played for a big market team he probably would have been in the HoF years ago.

  4. I remember him well, watching every Bengal game on TV. My tribute to a great Bengal leader, great player, and a great man. RIP Ken

  5. whenwilliteverend says:
    June 7, 2020 at 12:19 pm
    I think if he had played for a big market team he probably would have been in the HoF years ago.

    That is a shame. It also might have something to do with him being a d-back. Skill position players have better chances. James Lofton played in Green Bay and Buffalo (two years with the Raiders in-between), but he made it. Riley was before my time, but I’ve seen his highlights, and very much a damn good player.

  6. RIP Ken Riley! I’m a lifelong Bengals fan at 66 yrs old and remember watching you play at Nippert stadium – There aren’t that many Bengal greats but you were one of the them no doubt….thanks for the memories!

  7. How does a corner with more interceptions than Ronnie Lott, Ed Reed , Emmitt Thomas, Mel Blount, Lem Barney etc.(all HOF players) not get in the HOF. Matter of fact he is number 5 on the list of all time interceptions. HOF is a popularity contest not a measure of how the player compared to his peers.

  8. Couldve played a few more years and padded his stats. RIP to a great man and leader.

  9. RIP Mr. Ken Riley. My condolences to your family and friends. My Dad often spoke about what a legend you were and Simply put, this man deserved to be in the NFL HOF. He was also truly a strong ambassador of the sport.

    The Hate of the Bengals by the media and the writers needs to end. Many Great Players in their era have been penalized for playing with the Bengals. I can think of some others right off hand that need to be in as well such as Ken Anderson & Willie Anderson. It’s truly a shame.

  10. With Parrish and Casanova, made one of the great secondaries in NFL history. 1976 team held opposing QB to 47.8 rating. Coy Bacon had 22 or 26 sacks (depends on who was counting) in 14 games. Back when some defense was allowed in league.

  11. Eight interceptions, 2 of them pick 6s, in his last year at age 36. Wow. RIP KR, you are a HOFer.

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