CANTON, Ohio _ Late Bengals legend Ken Riley has his Gold Jacket emblematic of enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and thanks to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell it was the most emotional moment of Friday night's ceremony at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.
Saturday's noon induction at Tom Benson Stadium makes it official with the unveiling of his father's bust, but as Ken Riley II gazed at the framed icon with the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinee and Ken Riley 2023 patches, he admitted, "It looks official, doesn't it?"
For the first time ever Friday, the Hall gave Gold Jackets to posthumous inductees. It was also the first time a new Hall-of-Famer was given his jacket by a Hall-of-Famer of his choice. Mindy Coryell Lewis received her father's framed jacket from Don Coryell's quarterback, Dan Fouts, and she greeted the crowd with a wave while Fouts held the jacket aloft.
Riley II was next and he escorted his mother Barbara to the stage when Riley's Super Bowl XVI teammate Anthony Munoz popped out of the Gauntlet of Gold of about 100 Hall of Famers and gave the frame to the son while hugging the widow. Suddenly, the rest of the family joined them on the stage. Daughters, grandkids, in-laws. The crowd of about 4,000 cheered if they weren't blinking back tears.
"We had planned to just stand," said Kim, the eldest of his two daughters. "Then Roger Goodell told us all to go on up."
"Beautiful," Ken Riley II said and that's about all Munoz could say, too, even two hours after it was over.
"I'm glad he did it for them. For the whole Riley family to experience that, that's pretty cool. I'm glad the Commish did that," Munoz said. "That was a special moment to be a part of. For the Riley family to choose me, that meant a lot to me to be a part of something like that. It was emotional."
Barbara Riley had kept it all pretty much in check. Until she got on the stage.
"I said I wasn't going to get emotional, but then I saw the jacket and I got a little emotional then," she said. "He's here. Now the bust tomorrow and that will be really it."
A wave of Bengals alumni is expected for the induction, but a few got a head start Friday. Former linebacker Reggie Williams joined the Rileys at their table and former quarterback Ken Anderson, a senior candidate Hall of Fame finalist, was also somewhere in the house. Cris Collinsworth, another Super Bowl XVI teammate who told some Riley stories while calling Thursday's Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, was also there for Riley and to see NBC colleague Fred Gaudelli receive the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.
On the 25th anniversary of his induction, Munoz plans to mingle with his old teammates before checking out what is expected to be a big contingent of Bengals fans. There is also going to be a former Bengal there. Eric Steinbach, a four-year starter at left guard for the Bengals before he went to Cleveland, became close friends with Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, also in the 2023 class.
It's the first time since Paul Brown was elected to the Hall in 1967 that players from both teams he founded went into Canton the same year. And it comes 32 years to the day he died at age 82.