Ken Riley Hall of Fame
Ken Riley Hall of Fame Induction
Ken Riley, a legendary football player, is honored at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Known for his remarkable skills and leadership, Riley’s impact on his teammates and the sport itself cannot be overstated. His induction into the Hall of Fame is a testament to his exceptional abilities and his ability to elevate those around him.
Honoring a Legend: Ken Riley’s Induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Pilgrimage to Canton, Ohio
This weekend, crowds have gathered in Canton, Ohio to honor Ken Riley – a husband, father, grandfather, teammate, coach, mentor, and friend. After years of waiting, Riley’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is finally taking place.
From Bartow, Fla. to Tallahassee
Riley was born and raised in his hometown of Bartow, Florida, where he passed away. Throughout his life, he made a significant impact that extended far beyond his hometown. At Tallahassee, he played and coached, quickly becoming synonymous with the Florida A&M Rattlers.
Black College Football’s Greatest Quarterbacks
His contributions to sports and society even caught the attention of authors in New York, who recently wrote a book about his role in helping integrate America as one of the greatest quarterbacks in black college football.
Ken Riley Bengals
“The Rattler” in Cincinnati
Riley’s football career spanned three decades, four presidents, and the AFL, culminating in a 15-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals. It all began in the sixth round and spanned 207 games, a Super Bowl, and an impressive 65 interceptions – the first of which he collected off Denver’s Pete Liske and the last off Minnesota’s Wade Wilson.
Fourth Most Interceptions of All Time
Riley’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame comes 40 years after he secured his last interception, giving him the fourth most of all-time. In the four decades since then, only one man has accumulated more – Rod Woodson, who was born the same year Riley graduated from Union Academy and went to FAMU.
The ceremony begins at noon and will be broadcast on NFL Network and ESPN. With this honor, Riley’s legacy will continue to be celebrated for generations to come.
Barbara Riley: The Beginning of It All
Barbara Riley, wife of Ken Riley, remembers how she and Ken first met as students at Florida A&M University.
A Chance Encounter
She recalls her neighbor, Dixie, introducing them during her lunch break. Barbara never intended to date anyone, but Dixie felt that Ken would be a great match.
Love at First Sight
Barbara wasn’t initially interested in Ken, but things quickly changed once they started talking. Ken knew from the moment he met Barbara that he wanted to marry her.
Samuel Freedman: Author of “Breaking the Line”
Samuel Freedman, the author of “Breaking the Line: The Season in Black College Football That Transformed the Sport and Changed the Course of Civil Rights,” recounts the profound impact that Ken Riley and Grambling quarterback James “Shack” Harris had on the advancement of black college football.
Building a Friendship
When Freedman interviewed Riley in 2006, he had no idea that their meeting would lead to a valuable friendship. Over the next 13 years, Freedman was struck by Riley’s admirable qualities: his integrity, intelligence, focus, self-discipline, and generosity of spirit.
To thank Ken and Shack for their time and trust, Freedman offered to make a donation to a charity of their choice. Ken requested that the donation go to Union Academy, his former high school.
A Family of Scholars
Freedman also recalls that Ken was most proud of his family’s education – all members had earned a master’s degree.
Louis Breeden: Memories of a Friend
Louis Breeden, who started alongside Ken as a corner in Super Bowl XVI, expresses his joy and sadness at Ken’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A Long Overdue Honor
Breeden laments that Ken wasn’t inducted into the Hall of Fame sooner, given his impressive 65 interceptions during his career.
Breeden remembers Ken as someone who would have thanked his coaches, teammates, and family for their support. Although Ken isn’t here to accept the award, his impact on the sport and the community will be celebrated for years to come.
Reggie Williams: Recognizing Ken Riley’s Greatness
Reggie Williams, former Bengals linebacker and close friend of Ken Riley, reflects on the impact Riley made both on and off the field.
A Hero in Central Florida
Riley is celebrated as a hero in central Florida, where Williams resides. He describes Riley as the greatest defensive player in Bengals history.
Despite his humility, Riley was aware of his accomplishments. With a record-breaking 65 interceptions, Riley knew he was one of the best defensive backs in NFL history. He believed that justice would eventually prevail and he would receive the recognition he deserved.
Ken Anderson: A Leader on and off the Field
Ken Anderson, former Bengals quarterback and Hall of Fame senior finalist, speaks highly of Riley’s influence on the team.
Elevating the Team
Riley’s presence on the field made everyone around him better. As a quarterback, Anderson appreciated Riley’s ability to read the game from a defensive standpoint. He mentions how Riley would even help the younger wide receivers by pointing out their tendencies and how to improve.
The Mark of a True Professional
Anderson attributes Riley’s success to his exceptional attention to detail. Riley’s commitment to perfection meant that he had to be in top form every game. As a leader, Riley’s quiet demeanor commanded respect, and his teammates listened to his every word.
Reggie Williams: A Mentor and a Confidence Booster
Reggie Williams shares a personal story about Riley’s impact on his rookie season with the Bengals.
A Moment of Confidence
Williams recalls a game in which he had to cover Ken Burrough, a formidable wide receiver. Williams successfully prevented Burrough from getting past the five-yard mark. Impressed, Burrough asked Riley what was wrong with the rookie. Riley praised Williams, stating that he was “crazy” in the best way possible. This vote of confidence from a seasoned professional elevated Williams’ belief in himself and his abilities.
Breeden: Learning from Ken Riley
Former Bengals cornerback, Ken Breeden, remembers Ken Riley’s impact on his career.
Learning from the Best
Breeden credits Riley with teaching him how to play cornerback in the NFL. Coming in as a rookie, Breeden leaned heavily on Riley’s mentorship to improve his game.
A Tough Transition
Breeden marvels at Riley’s ability to make the transition from quarterback to cornerback, a position that requires a different set of skills, including being aggressive and confronting opposing players head-on.
Calm and Collected
While Breeden admits to being a “yeller and a screamer,” he acknowledges the importance of having a calming influence in the locker room. Riley provided that balance with his quiet demeanor and level-headed approach to the game.
Barbara Riley: A Life beyond Football
Barbara Riley reflects on what made Ken the man she fell in love with, rather than his football career.
Falling in Love with the Man
Barbara Riley always saw beyond her husband’s career, focusing instead on the kind, God-fearing man he was. Football was Ken’s job, and the couple grew together outside of the game.
A Quiet Approach
Ken never discussed football with family or friends, and Barbara only mentioned it if people asked. The couple’s focus was on their life together, not Ken’s career on the field.
Reggie Williams: A Leader and a Unifier
Former Bengals linebacker, Reggie Williams, reflects on the importance of leadership and teammateship in the face of adversity.
Bridging the Divide
Williams notes the impact of race riots occurring across the country when Riley was coming out of college. In this context, athletes like Riley played a critical role in bringing people together, regardless of race.
Williams was pleased to see the white players, particularly Kenny Anderson, at Riley’s funeral during the pandemic. It was a reminder of the importance of showing respect and unity, even in difficult times.
Freedman: Rising Above It All
Author Jonathan Freedman offers insight into Riley’s approach to racism and adversity.
While researching Ken Riley’s life, Freedman discovered more about the racial violence in the part of Florida where Riley grew up. However, Riley never brought it up in conversation, choosing instead to rise above it all and maintain his dignity.
Reggie Williams: A Fellow Fraternity Brother
Reggie Williams reflects on the shared bond he had with Ken Riley as members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Welcome in the Huddle
When Williams joined the Bengals, Riley immediately welcomed him into the huddle with the whispered words of “Invictus,” a poem that spoke to standing up and overcoming adversity, something Riley proved throughout his entire career.
Breeden: Ken Riley Day and Retirement
Ken Breeden remembers Riley’s final game with the Bengals, as well as his decision to retire and move into coaching.
Going Out on His Own Terms
Breeden recalls the celebration of “Rattler” on Ken Riley Day, a tribute to Riley’s alma mater, Florida A&M University. He notes that Riley went out on his own terms, retiring after a successful, high-level 15-year career as a starter, leading the AFC in interceptions in his final two seasons.
Coaching and Passion
Although Riley asked Breeden to come down and coach the defensive backs at FAMU, Breeden ultimately decided against it, recognizing that coaching is a passion, one that Riley had in spades.
Barbara Riley: Retirement on Ken’s Terms
Barbara Riley shares the story of Ken’s decision to retire and his confidence in his own body and abilities.
Knowing His Body
Barbara remembers that Ken always believed he would retire on his own terms, and when he started to feel the effects of his age and injuries, he knew it was time to step away.
End of an Era
While it was a difficult decision to retire, Ken remained confident in his abilities and was ready to move on to the next phase of his life.
Sam Freedman: Ken’s Legacy
Author Sam Freedman reflects on Ken’s legacy and his faith in the quality of his work.
Letting the Work Speak for Itself
Freedman notes that Ken never sought attention or campaigned for himself to be in the media spotlight. Instead, he believed that his “body of work should stand on its own.”
A Legacy for the Ages
Moving beyond Ken’s Hall of Fame induction, Freedman imagines how Ken may be looking down on his loving family with great satisfaction, knowing that his contributions to the sport are being recognized.
Ken Riley Stats
Ken Riley career stats, a former cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals, had an impressive career with notable statistics. Throughout his career, Riley played 207 games and accumulated 65 interceptions, the most interceptions in Bengals history. His interceptions resulted in a total of 596 interception return yards and five touchdowns.
Riley’s performance on the field earned him recognition as a one-time All-Pro and a Pro Bowl selection. He also contributed significantly to the team’s success, helping the Bengals reach the Super Bowl during the 1981 season.
These statistics highlight Riley’s exceptional skills as a cornerback and his ability to make game-changing plays on the defensive side of the ball. His record-breaking 65 interceptions demonstrate his knack for reading the game and making crucial defensive plays to disrupt opposing offenses.