EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings are mourning the passing of Legend Steve Riley, who passed away Thursday.
Riley, drafted 25th overall by Minnesota in 1974, played all 11 seasons of his NFL career with the Vikings.
Riley played 138 games for the Vikings, including 128 starts. His games played rank fourth-most in Vikings history among tackles behind Ron Yary (199), Alderman (194) and Tim Irwin (188).
Over his career, Riley helped the Vikings reach the playoffs seven times. The Vikings advanced to Super Bowl IX in Riley's rookie season.
In 1976, Riley took over the starting left tackle spot, where he remained a fixture throughout the rest of his career. He started in Super Bowl XI to cap that season and helped Minnesota advanced to the 1977 NFC Championship Game.
Riley played – and roomed with – tight end Stu Voigt, who called Riley "an unsung hero on some great teams."
"When you're on a line with Ed White, Mick Tingelhoff and Ron Yary, it's easy to be overlooked – but he was a valuable part of our success," Voigt told Vikings.com. "Linemen are the strong, silent type, and that was Steve. He was quiet and unassuming, but a great teammate and a great guy to be around. He's going to be missed."
Hall of Fame Head Coach Bud Grant expressed similar sentiments about Riley's impact both on the field and in the locker room.
"Steve had a great attitude, and he was proud to be a Viking," Grant told Vikings.com. "He was as nice a guy as you could have, and he had a tough job as the left tackle. He was an athletic player and very intelligent.
"He and Ron Yary were our bookends at tackle, a couple of Southern California guys, and they did a great job," Grant added.
Riley's Vikings teammates nominated him as the team's first-ever recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award in 1984, an honor extended to one player on each team every season since.
The native of Chula Vista, California, played college football at USC, where he was part of the historic undefeated 1972 Trojans team. Riley helped the Trojans defeat Ohio State in the 1973 Rose Bowl.
The Vikings had two first-round selections in the 1974 NFL Draft and tabbed Riley after taking UCLA linebacker Fred McNeill 17th overall.
Grant was quoted in The Minneapolis Star after drafting Riley:
"He's an immense man, but he's only a pup," said Grant, who accurately predicted Riley would play 10-12 seasons. "You have to have big people, so you have to take them when they're available … Here is a man who can step in when [Grady] Alderman retires."
And that he did, starting every game of a season seven separate times.
Riley was 68 years old. He died one day after the funeral service for Tingelhoff, his teammate for five seasons. Tingelhoff passed away on Sept. 11.