‘Give the Ball to Leroy’: How Others Honored the Storied Career, Life of Leroy Keyes

Purdue legend Leroy Keyes passed away Thursday at the age of 74. He was survived by his wife Monica and four children Colin, Raymond, Jacqueline and Courtland.
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West Lafayette, Ind. — Leroy Keyes' outreach stretched far beyond the painted lines on the football field. His family, his friends and the organizations that knew him best remembered him as a great player, but an even greater person. 

Born on Feb. 18, 1947, Keyes was a Purdue icon as an athlete and a man that worked toward the betterment of others. He played for Purdue from 1966 to 1968 and set a multitude of program records. Keyes played running back and defensive back while also returning kicks for the Boilermakers. 

His professional career began in 1969 with the Philadelphia Eagles where he played running back, cornerback and safety for the team. He played four seasons with the eagles and retired after one year with the Kansas City Chiefs as a result of injuries. 

The Keyes family released the following statement Thursday.

"The Keyes family is saddened to announce the passing the Purdue’s Athlete of the Century, Leroy Keyes. He passed peacefully at home this morning at 5:17 a.m. local time surrounded by his wife and children.

"Celebration of Life arrangements will be forthcoming. Your thoughts, prayers and condolences are felt and truly appreciated. We thank you for respecting our privacy during this difficult time."

Multiple organizations and individuals honored Keyes' memory and shared anecdotes of their own in response to his passing. 

Statement from Purdue Athletics 

Keyes' nickname was "The Golden Mr. Do-Everything" for his versatility in every phase of the game. He totaled 2,094 rushing yards, 80 receptions, eight touchdown passes and four interceptions as a defensive back. He was also responsible for the team's kickoff duties. 

"Leroy was a two-way player in the way that matters most — a great athlete and a great person," Purdue President Mitch Daniels said. "You never saw him without a smile on his face, or left him without a smile on your own. Every Boilermaker lost a good friend today."

For the full release, CLICK HERE 

Statement from the Philadelphia Eagles

During his four seasons with the Eagles, Keyes played running back, safety and cornerback. Keyes paired with All-Pro Bill Bradley in the secondary, and the duo combined for 17 interceptions in 1971. 

Keyes spent one season with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1973 before returning to Philadelphia as a desegregation specialist in the city's school district. He held that position for 16 years. 

For the full release, CLICK HERE 

Sports Illustrated acknowledges Keyes' talents back in 1967

Keyes dominated the Big Ten Conference during his junior season. He led the nation in points by scoring as a runner, receiver, passer and kicker. His versatility catalyzed a Boilermakers team that, at the time, won its first Big Ten title since 1957. 

His success in 1967 warranted the honor of being named the Big Ten Conference Most Valuable Player. Purdue, Indiana and Minnesota were the league's co-champions by the end of the season.  

"So now, 'Give the Ball to Leroy' is the cheer heard at Purdue games whenever something special is needed—and the team usually follows the plea of the crowd,"

For the full story, CLICK HERE

Leroy Keyes Collegiate Statistics and Accolades

  • Played from 1966-1968.
  • 354 rushes, 2,090 yards 29 touchdowns.
  • 80 receptions, 1,204 yards, 7 touchdowns.
  • 12 completions, 186 yards and 8 touchdowns.
  • Set school records with 37 career touchdowns, 222 points and 3,757 all-purpose yards.
  • Scored 19 touchdowns as a junior, a Purdue record that still stands today.
  • Consensus All-American in 1967 and 1968.
  • Inducted into the college football hall of fame in 1990.
  • Inaugural member of the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994.
  • Ranks third all-time for Purdue in total touchdowns.
  • Ranks fifth all-time for Purdue in rushing touchdowns.
  • 6.6 yards per carry in 1967 is the most in a single season in program history.
  • 5.88 yards per carry in his career is the most in program history.
  • 95-yard fumble return for a touchdown in 1966 is the longest by a Boilermaker in program history..

Tweets in rememberence of Leroy Keyes

Purdue football head coach Jeff Brohm: 

Purdue women's basketball head coach Sharon Versyp: 

Former Purdue basketball head coach Gene Keady: 

Former Purdue athlete Ja'Whaun Bentley: 

The Rose Bowl: 

Stories From Other Outlets


  • KEYES PASSES AT AGE 74: He was voted the All-Time Greatest Player in Purdue football history as part of the 100th anniversary of Purdue football in 1987. CLICK HERE