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A Hall hiss for The Rattler

Posted Feb 10, 2015

Rick “Goose,” Gossellin of the Dallas Morning News, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame senior committee that chooses Hall finalists, stated Ken Riley’s case Tuesday on the web site talkoffamenetwork.com.

 Bengals great Ken Riley's 65 interceptions are his calling cards for Canton.

There is not only support on the Pro Football Hall of Fame senior committee for former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson, but ex-Bengals cornerback Ken Riley is also getting some play in anticipation of his induction into the Black College Hall of Fame later this month.

Rick “Goose,” Gossellin of the Dallas Morning News, a member of the committee of nine Hall of Fame selectors that chooses senior finalists, stated Riley’s case Tuesday on the web site talkoffamenetwork.com.

Gossellin, along with fellow long-time Hall selectors Ron Borges and Clark Judge, writes the site that examines the careers of Hall-worthy players as well as other NFL issues.

Gosselin and Borges are on the senior committee, which holds the fate of players who took their last NFL snap more than 25 years ago. Riley played his Bengals-record 207th game in the 1983 finale, when his two interceptions gave him 65, at the time the third most in history.

A senior sub-committee of five members meets at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio this August to select two senior candidates who will be added to the ballot of 2016 finalists for the vote the day before the next Super Bowl.

Before the 2015 vote in Phoenix last month, Borges and Gossellin were adamant in their beliefs that Anderson has an excellent chance to be a senior candidate.

 “(Anderson’s) resume is not an issue. If he gets nominated, he’d be a hard guy to keep out. I’d say within the next five to 10 years,” said Borges, a Boston Herald sports columnist.

Gossellin said if there was a top ten for senior candidates, his list would include both Riley and Anderson.

Here’s his take on Riley’s candidacy:

By Rick Gossellin

Ken Riley will be enshrined in the Black College Hall of Fame at the end of this month.

He’s already in the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, the Florida A&M Hall of Fame, the Polk County Hall of Fame, the cities of Bartow and Tallahassee Halls of Fame and the public-school Hall of Fame. In addition, Florida named him one of the best 33 high-school football players in state history.

“I’m in every Hall of Fame but the big one,” Riley said.

And that’s puzzling.

Riley played 15 seasons at cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals. His 65 interceptions rank second among pure cornerbacks in NFL history. Only Hall-of-Famer Dick “Night Train” Lane has more. He also ranks fifth on the all-time list behind four Hall of Famers: Paul Krause, Emlen Tunnell, Rod Woodson and Lane.

Yet Riley has never been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So his candidacy has never been discussed by the full 46-member selection committee.

Why? Apparently, for one glaring reason — 15 seasons in the NFL, no Pro Bowls.

“I’m not going to cry about it,” Riley said. “That’s not me. I’ve always felt your actions speak louder than words. But that’s not true, because I’ve done everything I was supposed to do. And to not let me in because I didn’t play in a Pro Bowl…that’s something out of my control. That’s a popularity contest.”

Riley played in one of the NFL’s finest defensive backfields of his era. Riley and Lemar Parrish lined up at cornerback with Tommy Casanova and Bernard Jackson at safety. Parrish went to six Pro Bowls from 1970-77. He intercepted 25 passes during that stretch. Riley intercepted 36 passes during that same stretch with no Pro Bowls to show for it.

In 1974, Parrish didn’t intercept any passes. Riley intercepted five. Parrish was voted to the Pro Bowl. In 1975, Parrish missed three games with an injury and intercepted one pass. Riley intercepted six. Parrish was voted to the Pro Bowl. In 1976, Parrish intercepted two passes. Riley led the AFC with nine interceptions. Again, Parrish was voted to the Pro Bowl.

“Lemar and I were like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron,” Riley said. “Willie Mays was the flashy one. That was Lemar. But I was the one getting all the interceptions.”

In 1983, at the age of 36, Riley led the AFC in interceptions a final time with eight. Again, no Pro Bowl. Then he retired. He became the coach of his alma mater, Florida A&M, and posted a 48-29-2 record, with two Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships and two coach-of-the-year designations. Then he spent nine more years as the athletic director at the school before retiring in 2004.

Riley played quarterback at Florida A&M and was a Rhodes Scholar candidate. He would later earn a master’s degree from the University of North Florida. But first he had a football career to pursue.

The Bengals drafted him in the sixth round in 1969 and Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown immediately moved him to cornerback, where he became a starter and intercepted four passes as a rookie. He wound up starting 193 career games. Only eight pure cornerbacks in NFL history started more.

Riley had three PBUs in his only AFC title game against Hall-of-Fame quarterback Dan Fouts and the San Diego Chargers in 1981, then made three tackles and broke up a Joe Montana pass in his only Super Bowl.

Ken Riley, nicknamed “The Rattler,” was durable and productive. He maximized his abilities and became one of the best defensive players of his era. But the Pro Bowl voters didn’t recognize it then nor are the Hall of Fame voters recognizing it now.

“It mystifies me,” Riley said. “I’ve done everything I was supposed to do as a player.”

Has anyone at all been paying attention?

 

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