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Florida A&M University Legend Ken Riley Honored by Cincinnati Bengals

Florida A&M University football legend Ken Riley was honored by the Cincinnati Bengals as the team hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night Football.

I needed an honest and accurate assessment of Ken Riley, so I turned to the best source — James "Shack" Harris.  

"His body of work merits his placement in the Hall of Fame," said Harris. He played at a high level for 15 years with one team. In almost 40 years after being in the NFL, he is still at No. 5 in interceptions. That has to account for something."

Harris and Grambling State played against Riley and FAMU in the Orange Blossom Classic  — later they became good friends.

"He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame," exclaimed Harris.


Does it? Riley's 65 interceptions rank behind Paul Krause (81), Emlen Tunnell (79), Rod Woodson (71), Dick "Night Train" Lane (68), and tied with Charles Woodson (65), one notch above Ed Reed (64) and two above Ronnie Lot (63). The only difference is that Riley isn't in the Hall of Fame.

“It’s a mystery to me,” Riley said on the Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “That’s out of my control. The only thing I can do is be solid and go out and be consistent. And I was consistent every Sunday when I played football. And I played in more games than anybody in Cincinnati. I was durable.”  

Clark Judge of Sports Illustrated's Talk of Fame Network


Florida A&M University football legend Ken Riley was honored by the Cincinnati Bengals as the team hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night Football.

FAMU legend Ken Riley

Riley was a 2015 inductee into the Black College Football Hall of Fame after playing for 15 years in the National Football League. He served as head coach at his alma mater Florida A&M. 

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He played quarterback for coaching legend Alonzo “Jake” Gaither for four seasons at FAMU before being drafted by the Bengals in the 6th round of the 1969 NFL Draft (Common Draft). 

Former Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Ken Riley s son, Ken Riley II

The Bengals were set at quarterback, and head coach Paul Brown decided to switch Riley to cornerback.  He started the position, returned kickoffs, and played sparingly at wide receiver.

Riley's son, Ken Riley II, and his family were at the football game to accept the honor at halftime of the Bengals' Ring of Honor ceremony, including former Cincinnati greats Paul Brown, Ken Anderson, and Anthony Muñoz.

He returned to Florida A&M as the Rattlers head coach from 1986-1993 and led the team to a 45-40-2 record.

Ken Riley had a heart attack on June 7, 2020, and died at the age of 72 without the NFL voters inducting him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  

Longtime Saints reporter and Hall of Fame voter Jeff Duncan messaged me on Riley's candidacy: 

"I think he has a great shot through the senior committee. I know he's long been one of the top candidates there for sometime. But with only one going in each year, there's a bottle neck."  Jeff Duncan

In August 2021, Riley became one of the senior finalists for Hall of Fame consideration. Hopefully, this is the year that Ken Riley will rightfully be immortalized by the institution he helped to build, the National Football League.


  • Rhodes Scholar Candidate at FAMU
  • Returned 5 Interceptions for Touchdowns
  • 18 Fumble Recoveries
  • 214 career games (including the playoffs) and didn’t miss one in 11 of his 15 seasons.
  • Prolific Quarterback at FAMU
  • Florida High School Association All-Century Team member
  • Born August 6, 1947 in Bartow, FL