Riley Family

Hall of Fame induction bittersweet for widow of Ken Riley

Ken Riley’s widow opens up about the disappointment her husband felt as he waited 40 years for his Hall of Fame nod.

While Ken Riley waited 40 years to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he won’t have to wait when it comes to the ceremony.  The Pro Football Hall of Fame released their order of induction list to the public and former Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas will be first to be inducted, followed by Ken Riley. 

Unfortunately, Riley passed in June of 2020, but the excitement from his family is growing.  Additionally, there is a surprise speaker at the ceremony.  Riley’s wife Barbara Riley, who resides in Bartow, Fl, will present Riley on stage for the unveiling of the bust, while Ken Riley II will deliver the acceptance speech.  Barbara Riley has been practically silent in public in the wake of her husband’s passing. 

When the Hall of Fame requested the presenter, Mrs. Riley initially tried to deflect.  

“Originally I wanted the grandsons to do the presenting. Then I found out there were too many of them,” Riley said.  “Then I suggested his daughters and me to do it.  We were told it could only be one person, so everyone suggested that I should do it.  I said yes. Every since the beginning of the process I picked Ken II to be our spokesman.”  

On Sept. 29, 2021 the Cincinnati Bengals unveiled their initial Ring of Honor Ceremony.  Enshrined were Bengals greats Kenny Anderson, Anthony Munoz, Paul Brown and Riley. The lavish ceremony was attended by the Riley family with Ken II receiving the customized Ring of Honor jacket on the field at halftime.  He would wear his father’s cowboy boots on the field for the ceremony.  Barbara along with her other children were on the field for the event. 

Ken Riley Family Pro Football Hall of Fame

Riley’s had an unexpected rushed wedding 

When Ken Riley graduated and was drafted by the Bengals, he went to his first camp.  

“At the camp, his coach told him if you have a wife you can bring her with you.  If you don’t have a wife by then it should wait until after the season,” Barbara Riley said.

The two had planned to get married in June, but the coach’s demand caused them to move up the date to May 3, 1969.  At the time of Riley’s death in 2021, they had been married for 51 years. 

It has been an emotional adjustment for her since his passing.  She has often stayed in the background, choosing instead to allow Ken Riley II to do most appearances representing the family.  But, there was a side of her that knew she needed to be in the picture.  

“Seems like I became obligated, knowing he had been waiting and waiting all this many years.  He thought his stats would have gotten him in well before he actually went in,” Barbara Riley said.   “ He simply would not boast about himself, that’s the way he was brought up.  In a way, it is very sad for him not to be here to receive his accolades.  It was the one thing he really wanted in the later years of his life.”

Ken Riley predicted a posthomous Hall of Fame selection

Riley was not very vocal about not making the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but when prompted, he would tell anyone that he had earned his place — 2019 was his breaking point.  The climate seemed to be in his favor for making the hall and he really wanted to be a part of the 2019 class as the NFL celebrated 100 years.  For him, it was a breaking point.  After not making the class of 2019, Riley began to give up hope.  

“In 2019 he was done with this.  I didn’t question him and I let him vent,” Barbara Riley said. “He felt the dream of fulfilling that circle had past him by. He felt that probably he had played so long ago that there weren’t enough that remembered him to make it in.  One day he was very down about it and said this would not happen in his lifetime.  He didn’t speak about it much at all after 2019.”

Unfortunately, Ken Riley would never have spoken truer words.

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Ken Riley II will deliver the enshrinement speech

This year’s enshrinement will complete Riley’s circle 

“It felt like it was getting further and further away.  It’s a catch-22 because this should have been his day,” Barbara Riley said. “I push Ken II out there because that’s the way it should be.” 

Ken II is slated to give his speech on the biggest stage of football in front of millions.  Barbara Riley says it will be the first time she will hear the speech.  

“He hasn’t let me hear it and I don’t know what’s in it, so I’ll be hearing it along with everybody else.”     

Hall of Fame induction bittersweet for widow of Ken Riley
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


To Top