By Kyle Gillbraith aka TheNati#22

Is Ken Riley the most underrated defensive back to ever play in the NFL? I think so and here is why…

Riley played 15 seasons from 1969 to1983 all with the Cincinnati Bengals. In that time, he amassed 65 interceptions, 596 return yards off interceptions, 18 fumble recoveries and 5 interceptions returned for touchdowns. These numbers are good for 5th all-time in career interceptions and where are the 4 guys in front of Riley? All 4 are in the hall of fame, 7 of the top 11 all-time interception leaders are in the Hall of Fame 3 of them with less career picks than Riley. The only player with a real shot at passing Riley is Ed Reed who is sitting at 61 career interceptions and most would agree Reed is a sure fire Hall of Famer and possibly the best safety to ever play. After Reed, the only active player that’s close is Charles Woodson who is at 55 and he’s another player that will probably be in the Hall of Fame even if he does not pass Riley.

It’s not just that Riley is not in the Hall of Fame that bothers me. It’s that he got very little recognition throughout his entire career. Not one time did he make the Pro Bowl or the AFL all-star game! While recording 9 interceptions and 8 interceptions in a single season and at least 3 picks or more in 12 of his 15 seasons. The fact that such an excellent player has got little to no attention from the Hall of Fame voters irritates me. I understand that most of the teams he played on were not very good, but such a difference maker deserves consideration.

To be above average in the NFL for 15 years and only play for one team is increasingly rare in the league and for one to have had the impact Riley had for his entire career and yet get no recognition is absurd. Part of the problem is that Riley was a quiet guy… He did not showboat and he rarely celebrated his play. He just did his job and did it well for longer than most could ever hope to last in the NFL. He was a major player in the early ‘80s super bowl run the Bengals made with 5 interceptions. Ultimately they lost the big game to the 49ers. In Riley’s final season in 1983 he grabbed 8 interceptions and scored 2 touchdowns as a 36 year old corner in the NFL. These numbers are excellent and well deserving of joining his old teammate Anthony Munoz in the Hall of Fame.

My concern is that since he was such a low key player, he will get forgotten about and may never get in. That is why I am trying to bring this to the attention of as many people as I can. Not just because I am a Bengals fan, but because I have always been a fan of the underdog, the low key players are usually my favorites. One of my favorite players all-time is Fred Taylor. He was an excellent running back but got almost no attention! However, that is a story for another day! Back on the topic of the Hall of Famer that should be Ken Riley. I know there are numerous articles chronicling the career of Riley and the injustice of him not being in the hall of fame. What I do not understand is how all this chatter has gone unnoticed by the Hall of Fame voters. His career numbers alone are worthy of the Hall but add in that he was a good character low key guy who was dedicated to one franchise his entire career and he is everything most people want in a player.

I hope that like the recent inductee Cris Carter (GO BUCKS!!!) Riley will one day be inducted into the Hall. As long as there are people lobbying for him and sharing just how good he was for 15 years the right outcome will eventually happen. I know there is a log jam of various players almost every year most of which are well deserving of the Hall but there are few who have been ignored by voters for as long as Riley has been. Get this man a Bronze Bust in the Hall while he is still around to enjoy it!!!