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Hall Quick Hits: Ken Riley's Winning Bust-ed Coverage; Marvin Sighting; Hall-of-Famers Pay 65 Respects

Ken Riley II honors his late father Ken Riley on stage as he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 Enshrinement Ceremony on Saturday, August 5, 2023 in Canton, Ohio. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)
Ken Riley II honors his late father Ken Riley on stage as he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 Enshrinement Ceremony on Saturday, August 5, 2023 in Canton, Ohio. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

CANTON, Ohio _ Louis Breeden, who played on the Bengals' Super Bowl XVI corner opposite Ken Riley, stared at the bust and approved. It was almost as if his friend and mentor stared back.

"It brings back some memories. It kind of comes to life. It kind of looks real. The smile on his face." Breeden said. "A great likeness. He would be proud. He would be happy."

Breeden could have been summing up the long hot Saturday that began hours before on the field of Tom Benson Stadium as he and about 40 of Riley's teammates watched him go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame three years and three decades too late. As a dinnertime crowd of alumni, family, and friends gathered at the Bengals reception at the Quarry Golf Club to reminisce and dance into the night while a loop of Riley's highlights flashed on the TV screens throughout the venue, sweet overcame the bitter celebrating the man who passed away at 72 in 2020.

"His son by far did the best job. Primarily because he was the shortest," said Breeden of Ken Riley II's speech. "He kept it short, concise. Whenever he had something to say to the team, it was short, on point, concise and that's what Kenny did today."

RETURN OF MARVIN: Marvin Lewis, the Bengals' all-time winningest head coach, was on hand for the induction and reception in his first appearance at a club event since he coached his last and record 16th season in 2018. Lewis, a special adviser at Arizona State, had planned to attend last year's Bengals Ring of Honor ceremony for Willie Anderson, but that turned out to be the week head coach Herm Edwards got let go. He has plans to be at Chad Johnson's Ring of Honor induction next month, but Bengals president Mike Brown wanted to let him know he was welcome in Canton for the first Bengal to be elected to the Hall in 25 years.

"Mike kind of brought it up. Someone should reach out and see if I wanted to come and be a part of the Bengals contingent. I appreciate that. That was really nice," said Lewis, who, like Brown, considers himself a Bengal all the way. "Always. I was in Italy a few weeks ago and someone says, 'Who-Dey.' I was in the Atlanta airport yesterday and a guy said, 'Coach, want my hat?' It had a Bengals logo on the side."

Lewis knew Riley before he became the Bengals head coach. He worked in Baltimore with James "Shack," Harris, Riley's college rival and friend, and Harris took Lewis to a Florida A&M workout when "The Rattler," was the Rattlers' athletic director.

"I've heard Mike talk about these guys so many times," Lewis said. "He would talk about how Kenny converted from quarterback to cornerback. He'd bring that up all the time when we would talk about converting guys to a position."

Lewis spent a good part of the evening talking to Bengals ownership. Mike Brown, who turns 88 on Thursday, didn't make the trip but the rest of his family was there.

HALL PARADE: Harris, Riley's fellow Black College Football Hall-of-Famer, was one of the luminaries that stopped by the reception. A batch of Pro Football Hall-of-Famers who played against Riley's Bengals also checked in, including two great defensive backs who envied Riley's 65 career interceptions.

Emmitt Thomas, who had 58 working on the Chiefs corner, observed, "He should have been in 15, 20 years ago. Long overdue. People don't know just how hard it is to get an interception."

Ken Houston, the Oilers safety who seemingly played the Bengals eight times a year, had 49 interceptions himself.

"But that's as a safety. Sixty-five as a cornerback? Unheard of," Houston said. "I've got top keep saying it, 65."

Houston has a lot of respect for his old AFC Central rivals. He says Lemar Parrish, the cornerback opposite Riley in the '70s, was the quickest of any corner.

"That's the most underappreciated team that I've seen," Houston said. "I still think about Isaac Curtis. I mean Issac had speed, size. I don't know how he got lost (for the Hall of Fame), but I hope they find him."

ALUMNI BASH: Curtis was there Saturday and so was the man who threw him 51 touchdown passes as they formed one of the greatest tandems in NFL history. Ken Anderson spoke for his teammates when he took the mike and after he spoke Ken Riley II pointed at him and said, "He's next."

For the second straight year, Anderson is one of the Hall's 12 senior finalists on tap for discussion Aug. 22. If he's one of the top three, he would virtually be assured enshrinement. Hall-of-Famer linebacker Robert Brazille, another esteemed Oiler, is pushing both Bengal Andersons. He coached Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson as a youth in Mobile, Ala. Willie Anderson has made the 15 modern-era finals the last two years.

A group of alumni bussed up from Paycor Stadium Saturday morning, making for one of the more memorable road trips in Bengals history. About 25 were on the bus and that included Jim Anderson, the longest-serving Bengals assistant coach who joined the team a year after Riley retired in 1983. But he got on the bus.

"I had a chance early in my career with the Bengals to sit down and talk philosophy with him and I value that experience," Anderson said. "Before you even met Ken Riley, Paul Brown would talk about how he tackled receivers. That special knack of going under and (Brown) would go, 'Shsswew.' He would talk about how DBs should approach and make tackles on wide receivers."

There were a lot of Riley stories on the bus. "It's a great opportunity for camaraderie with guys past and present … Riding that bus, it's another special moment in time." Here's one Anderson had heard before but liked hearing it again because it says so much about the player and the man:

"A particular player, he would get excited and Kenny would say, 'Just relax. Just settle down. You know what's coming. We'll respond to it and go from there.' He was a calming force on the defense and wasn't a rah-rah guy. He said things softly, but carried a big stick."

NO SNAKES: Barbara Riley, Ken's widow, was the star of the show. Just like her husband. Quiet, unassuming, but clearly in charge of her big loving family. She smiled as she looked at a menu that included "Python," a nod to a family tradition of an exotic dish to go with Thanksgiving dinner.

But truth be told, the man nicknamed "Rattler," couldn't get through one bite of a Rattlesnake dinner years ago.

"He didn't like snakes at all," Barbara Riley said. "One time I told him there was a snake in the driveway and he walked completely around the house to get a shovel. I told our daughter Kenisha, 'You have to come look at this.'''