Former Florida A&M head coach and athletic director Ken Riley, who was an All-Pro defensive back for the Cincinnati Bengals, died Sunday, the university announced. He was 72.
The school said Riley died in his hometown of Bartow, Fla. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Tallahassee Democrat, Riley suffered a heart attack.
Riley played 15 seasons for the Bengals and recorded 65 interceptions for 596 yards and five touchdowns — all franchise records. His 65 career picks are the fifth-most in NFL history.
Before his standout NFL career, Riley was a four-year starter at quarterback for the Florida A&M 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,” Florida A&M athletic director Kortne Gosha said in a statement Sunday. “We wish his family our deepest condolences.”
The Bengals selected Riley in the sixth round of the 1969 AFL-NFL Draft. Under former coach Paul Brown, the team decided to convert Riley — who was black — to cornerback. At that time, black starting quarterbacks in the league were unheard of.
“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. “Everybody here loved Kenny. 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.”
Riley spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers before taking over as head coach at Florida A&M. He posted a 48-39-2 record from 1986-93 at the school, winning two Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles and earning MEAC Coach of the Year honors twice.
Riley, who was a three-time All-Pro choice with the Bengals, is a member of the Florida A&M Hall of Fame and the Black College Football Hall of Fame.