Ken Riley acquired impressive titles. They include FAMU Hall of Famer, standout NFL player, athletic director and head coach of FAMU football.
Riley, who died unexpectedly at his home near Bradenton on June 7 at age 72, will be remembered for not just the player he was on the field but the person he was overall.
“You can imagine Coach Riley being president of the United States, a preacher, or a professor at a university,” Billy Joe, a former head football coach at FAMU, said.“He had that demeanor and personality; he was a quality young man.”
Riley coached Vaughn Wilson, who would go on to work for FAMU athletics for more than a decade.
“As a player, Coach Ken Riley was a person who didn’t have to do too much for people to notice him. He wasn’t one of those players who craved attention from the stands. He played his game because it was his job and that’s what he was supposed to do,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he learned that every time he did something he thought was spectacular on the field, such as kicking a 70-yard punt, Riley didn’t seem to notice. But when he did something mediocre, such as a 30 yard punt, Riley met him on the field and patted him on the back each time.
“Coach Riley was complimentary but not over complimentary,” Wilson said. “His goal was whatever you’re doing out there is what you’re supposed to be doing and it’s only superlative in your mind.”
Many who knew Riley as a player say that he deserves to be in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Wilson created a website and petition for Riley to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, which is something that the NFL has yet to do. Wilson started the movement several years ago. He is still fighting for Riley’s spot in the NFL Hall of Fame and you can support it at KenforCanton.com.
Riley is one of FAMU’s most memorable players. His production at FAMU is what catapulted him to the NFL for 15 years. Riley was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals during the 6th round of the 1969 NFL Draft. His positions were: quarterback, running back and cornerback. In his 15 years in the NFL he set several records, but he is best recognized for ranking fifth all time in interceptions.
Billy Joe said, “Riley was a phenomenal player in the NFL. He had great speed, hand-eye coordination, and great defense. He should be in the pro football Hall of Fame. He led the NFL in interceptions, he is very deserving. He should have been in their decades ago.”
Brandon Randolph, former equipment manager for FAMU, says he spoke to Riley in passing and didn’t have a close relationship with him, but he gained many life lessons from him.
“He told me to never regret making mistakes because you learn from those mistakes,” Randolph said. “Coach Riley was a man that cared for you and didn’t mind encouraging you to keep going. He loved his university, and he enjoyed every minute as a coach and athletic director.”
Riley will always be remembered at FAMU.