Former Bengals star, Florida A&M coach Ken Riley dies at 72

Written by on June 8, 2020

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Former Cincinnati Bengals standout Ken Riley, who was later a head coach and athletic director at his alma mater Florida A&M, died Sunday, the university announced. He was 72.

Riley played 15 seasons for the Bengals as a defensive back, with 65 career interceptions for 596 yards and five touchdowns — all franchise records. The interceptions rank fifth in NFL history. He also recovered 18 fumbles.

Before his NFL career, Riley was a four-year starter at quarterback for the Rattlers.

“FAMU athletics and the entire Rattler Nation is deeply saddened of the passing of former FAMU football player, head coach, athletics director and NFL great Ken Riley,” athletic director Kortne Gosha said in a statement. “We wish his family our deepest condolences.”

Riley, who was black, was chosen in the sixth round of the 1969 NFL draft by the Bengals, who under coach Paul Brown decided to convert him to cornerback. At the time, black starting quarterbacks in the NFL were all but unheard of. Riley retired in 1983.

“When he came here, Kenny and Lemar Parrish had never played cornerback, and they’re the two best we’ve ever had. And we’ve had a lot of good ones,” Bengals owner Mike Brown said in a statement. “We put him over there for a decade and a half and we didn’t have to worry about it. Kenny was quick to the point of the ball as a great interceptor and he was an excellent tackler, even though he wasn’t a very big man.

“I’m going to miss him. He was a good guy and a solid man. We send our condolences to his family.”


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