“FAMU athletics and the entire Rattler Nation is deeply saddened of the passing of former FAMU football player, head coach, athletics director and NFL great Ken Riley,” Vice President and Director of Athletics Kortne Gosha said in a statement. “We wish his family our deepest condolences.”
Riley, who was African American, was chosen in the sixth round of the 1969 NFL draft by the Bengals, who under coach Paul Brown decided to convert him to cornerback. At the time, black starting quarterbacks in the NFL were all but unheard of. Riley retired in 1983.
Despite his accomplishments, Riley never made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, although he is in the Florida A&M and Black College Football halls of fame, and was one of 33 players named to the Florida High School Association All-Century Team. He played in high school at Union Academy in Bartow, Florida.
The school said Riley died in Bartow. A cause of death was not released.
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The current Rattlers coach, Willie Simmons, said Riley will be missed.
“I woke up this morning with a heavy heart as I learned of the passing of FAMU and NFL great Ken Riley,” Simmons said in a statement. “Coach Riley was one of the first to welcome me to the ‘FAMULY’ and having him speak to our team before our first Orange and Green game is definitely at the top of my list of unforgettable moments as head coach here at FAMU.”