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Rattler strikes at Hall

Ken Riley

Ken Riley, who should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but is in a handful of others, is poised to add the Hall of Fame to his glittering Wall of Fame.

Riley trailed only Tim Krumrie and fellow Floridian Cris Collinsworth in fan balloting to determine the 10 finalists for the Hall's second class. The 10 go before the voters later this month, when fans choose the three they want to see join the inaugural class of Paul Brown, Anthony Muñoz, Ken Anderson, Isaac Curtis and Boomer Esiason.

The Next Three are to be unveiled in July and it looks to be an intriguing vote to sort through the logjam. Krumrie, the two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle, hung on to his lead by appearing on 73.9 percent of the ballots with Collinsworth (69.3) and Riley (68.2) fending off running back James Brooks with 67.5 and Super Bowl head coach Sam Wyche at 66.

Rounding out the top 10 were a pair of multiple Pro Bowlers for Wyche from the '80s, safety David Fulcher and Max Montoya, as well as career scoring leader Jim Breech, career rushing leader Corey Dillon, and six-time Pro Bowl cornerback Lemar Parrish.

Tight end Bob Trumpy, who led the original Bengals with 37 catches in 1968 before making four Pro Bowls, finished 11th on 43.4 percent of the ballots. Head coach Forrest Gregg and three players that led his 1981 Bengals to the Super Bowl, linebacker Reggie Williams, tight end Dan Ross, and running back Pete Johnson, made up the rest of the top five that missed the cut in a field of multiple Prol Bowlers, career leaders, and at-large candidates.

The trend continues. Riley and Parrish are the only two players in the top 10 that played the bulk of their careers before 1980 and that doesn't surprise Riley, whose 15-year career spanned the AFL and the most-watched Super Bowl in history when Gregg's Bengals nearly caught the 49ers in Detroit. He broke in with rookie quarterback Greg Cook and retired a few months before the Bengals drafted Boomer Esiason. Riley played his first game against coach George Wilson's pre-Don Shula Dolphins in tiny Nippert Stadium and in his last game picked off the Vikings' Wade Wilson twice in the cavernous Metrodome.

"People forget you," Riley said. "But that's the way it goes. I understand how that works. It's also nice to be remembered."

Hard to forget "The Rattler," nicknamed for his Florida A&M alma mater where he became athletic director after an eight-year stint as head coach. Now the dean of students at Winter Haven High School, Riley's age (63) nearly matches his legendary 65 interceptions.

"I haven't drawn my pension; I've always had good jobs," Riley said this week. "I guess it's like it was when I was playing. I kept saying I'd play another year, and I kept coming back. I like working with kids. I don't want to be a principal or anything like that, but I like being a mentor."

As usual, Riley is in the middle of it all. On May 21 he's bringing a Youth Summit to his hometown where he still lives, Bartow, Fla. As chairman of the East Side Positive Action Committee, Riley is coordinating a combination job fair and workshop that brings together children and their parents with members of the community.

"We want to reach out to parents and families and we're bringing in law enforcement, judges, teachers, coaches, and there's going to be spirituality involved as well," Riley said. "Reggie Williams is going to be coming in for that."

That's going to be more than 400 Bengals games in Bartow in a couple of weeks. Riley played the most games in club history with 207 and Williams, the 14-year linebacker, is right behind him at 206. Maybe Riley's proudest NFL moments are those last 25 games in which he led the AFC in interceptions in 1982 and 1983 at ages 35 and 36.

"I had exceptional speed, but in my last few years I maybe lost a step," Riley said. "I was a technician. I got a lot of those with my knowledge."

He also led the AFC in picks in 1976, when his nine edged Patriots rookie Mike Haynes by one. Haynes would go on to make 46 career interceptions and be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Riley's 65 are the fifth-most of all-time and he's still waiting even though the four in front of him (Paul Krause, Emlen Tunnell, Rod Woodson, Night Train Lane) are already in.

But the old coach's election last year gave him hope. Dick LeBeau, Riley's position coach in his last four seasons, was elected as a senior candidate with his 63 interceptions after 12 years in the senior pool. Riley has been eligible as a senior since 2009.

"I was very happy to see that. Dick was a great player and I'm happy for him," said Riley, and he laughs when denying he hung around long enough to pass LeBeau on the list.

As it was, it took two in his last two games to do it.

"That's what they said," Riley said. "But that wasn't why."

Riley admits he'd like to get in the big Hall and, yes, it would be nice to be recognized by Bengals fans. But he's already in the Florida A&M Hall, not to mention the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame as well as the Polk County School Board Hall of Fame. He's been recognized by the National Association of Black Journalists, the Tampa Bay Sports Hall of Fame, and he made Florida's all-century high school team.

"Emmitt Smith is on that one; that's a pretty good team," he said.

There are all sorts of reasons Riley is not in Canton. Yet. Small market. Pre-media whirl. Played defense in a division with The Steel Curtain.

"I wasn't a braggart. I went out, did my job, and that was it," Riley said. "Yeah, Lemar was flashy and he returned kicks, too. I'll tell you, we had a great secondary back then with Tommy Casanova at safety.

"I know the kind of career I had and I'm proud of it."


» Tim Krumrie                           73.9%
» Cris Collinsworth                     69.3%
» Ken Riley                               68.2%
» James Brooks                        67.5%
» Sam Wyche                           66.0%
» David Fulcher                         57.3%
» Max Montoya                         55.5%
» Jim Breech                            52.9%
» Corey Dillon                           49.4%
» Lemar Parrish                        47.2%
» Bob Trumpy                           43.4%
» Forrest Gregg                         41.7%
» Reggie Williams                     34.9%
» Dan Ross                               31.8%
» Pete Johnson                         28.4%
» Carl Pickens                           25.6%
» Rodney Holman                      22.5%
» Tommy Casanova                   20.3%
» Bob Johnson                          19.6%
» Bill Bergey                             17.6%
» Eddie Edwards                         17.0%
» Jim LeClair                             15.1%
» Mike Reid                               14.9%
» Coy Bacon                              13.5%
» Lee Johnson                           12.7%
» Jeff Blake                                9.4%
» Essex Johnson                         8.0%
» Paul Robinson                          6.0%
» Tremain Mack                          4.1%    
» Mike Martin                              3.8%
» Dave Lewis                               2.8%

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