Bengals legend Riley advances to final stage in Hall of Fame process

Credit: Gary Landers/Associated Press File

Credit: Gary Landers/Associated Press File

Former Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Ken Riley has moved to the final step in the selection process for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023.

Riley, who died at age 72 in 2020, emerged -- along with former Bears and Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley and Jets and Colts defensive lineman Joe Klecko – from a group of 12 “seniors” remaining under consideration as finalists for next year’s class of enshrinees.

That list at one point numbered 127 former players whose careers ended no later than the 1996 season, and the three finalists were selected during a meeting of the Hall of Fame’s Seniors Committee on Tuesday afternoon. The Hall of Fame’s full selection committee will consider Riley, Howley and Klecko for selection along with 15 modern-era players and a coach/contributor when it meets to choose the entire Class of 2023 in January.

Each of the seniors finalists would be elected to the Hall if he receives at least 80 percent approval in the up-or-down balloting.

“This is long deserved,” Bengals owner and president Mike Brown said in a statement provided by the team. “It is unfortunate Kenny is gone because we know how much he would have appreciated this. His family is surely pleased at this news. Kenny was a splendid player and still holds the Bengals record for most interceptions over a career. It would be a wonderful thing if he were selected for the Hall of Fame.”

Riley played his entire 15-year career at cornerback for the Bengals from 1969 to 1983 and was inducted into the franchise’s Ring of Honor last year.

A quarterback in college, he adapted to his new position as a pro quickly, intercepting four passes as a rookie. He would record at least one interception each season, finishing with 65 for his career – still tied for the fifth-highest total in NFL history and ranked second to “Night Train” Lane’s 68 for defensive backs who played exclusively at corner.

Known for both his cover skills and ability to support run defenses, Riley played 207 games and remained productive in his final season, recording eight interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns, and earning a spot on the AP All-Pro first team. Former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson was among the other nine players the Seniors Committee discussed at its meeting.

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