Should late Bengals legend Ken Riley be in the NFL Hall of Fame?

“He was not only my father, but my hero too.”
Updated: Apr. 15, 2021 at 8:45 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Ken Riley has been on the minds of Bengals fans for years.

One of the franchise’s undisputed greats, Riley spent all of his 15 seasons (1969-83) as a Cincinnati Bengal. He finished his career as one of only 26 cornerbacks in NFL history to have played 200 games, in that time recording 65 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries.

A three-time All Pro, Riley’s interceptions, interception return yards, and interceptions returned for touchdowns are all Bengals records. His 65 interceptions remain top-five in the history of the NFL.

But Riley, who has more interceptions than 29 defensive backs in the NFL Hall of Fame, isn’t a hall-of-famer himself.

That doesn’t sit right with his son, Ken Riley II.

“Ever since he retired, I’ve been lobbying for him to get into the NFL Hall of Fame,” Riley II told FOX19 NOW on Wednesday.

If that dream once appeared distant, it got closer last week when the Bengals announced a Ring of Honor, something fans and former players have argued is long overdue.

“I would’ve loved for him to be here,” Riley II said. “it would’ve been that much more special for him.”

Riley’s death in 2020 may have driven the decision, especially after an NFL Honors “In Memoriam” video segment that ran during the Super Bowl omitted him.

“Ken left a great impact on the Bengals and the NFL. His legacy deserves to be honored among the greatest to ever play the game,” the team wrote on Twitter. But clap-back responses pointed to the fact that the Bengals organization had not honored Riley either — in a Ring of Honor that did not then exist.

“It would come up, and people would say, ‘If the franchise doesn’t recognize the greats, why would anybody else?’” Riley II said.

The team’s first Ring of Honor class will include Paul Brown and Anthony Muñoz, as well as two other players to be announced at a home game this year.

Riley II hopes his father will be one of them, bringing the NFL Hall of Fame that much closer.

“I know deep inside, that’s something he really wanted,” he said. “He’s earned it, no matter if he’s not here now. He earned it through his play and the type of man he was. He was not only my father, but my hero too.”

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