On June 7th, 2020, it was announced that Bengals legend Ken Riley has passed away. He was 72 years old. Riley played for the Bengals during all 15 seasons of his NFL career, from 1969 to 1983. Later, he became the head coach at Florida A&M from 1986 to 1993, amassing an overall record of 48-39-2.
Ken Riley played quarterback at Florida A&M before being selected in the 6th round of the Common Draft (the precursor to the modern NFL Draft) and converted to cornerback by then-Bengals coach Paul Brown. This was obviously a very good move, as during Riley’s career he tallied 65 INTs, 596 INT return yards, and 5 defensive TDs. The 65 INTs put Riley at 5th all time.
He recorded at least 3 interceptions in all but 3 of his 15 NFL seasons. Riley’s best season came in 1976 when he caught 9 INTs, setting the Bengals franchise record until 2005. Despite his clear successes, he was never selected to a Pro Bowl but made the All-Pro team three times (1975, 1976, 1983). During the 1981 season, he was with the Bengals en route to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance.
Immediately following his NFL playing career, he joined the Green Bay Packers for two seasons as an assistant coach before taking over the head coaching role at his alma mater, Florida A&M. While at Florida, Riley won two MEAC Coach of the Year awards (1988 and 1990) and two MEAC conference titles.
There has been controversy regarding his Hall of Fame status, as he is currently not enshrined. Riley at one point spoke up, saying, “I think my numbers are deserving of the Hall of Fame. I’ve always been a modest and low-key type guy. 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.” Ken Riley’s career stats are:
Interceptions: 65 (additional 3 playoff INTs)
INT Return Yards and TDs: 596 yards, 5 TDs
Fumble Recoveries and Return Yards: 18 recoveries, 96 yards
Riley’s total interceptions, INT return yards, and INT return touchdowns are all Bengals franchise records. He is also tied for the Bengals franchise record for most interceptions in a game with 3, which he has accomplished twice.
Ken Riley was a mainstay on the Bengals for a decade and a half, breaking numerous team records and cementing himself into the NFL record books. It is no doubt that he was one of the best cornerbacks in league history. Only time will tell if he will ever receive proper recognition for his accomplishments. Rest in peace, Ken Riley.