Former Purdue All-American Leroy Keyes Dies at Age 74

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 15, 2021

(Original Caption) Keyes in Action. South Bend, Indiana: Purdue's Leroy Keyes gallops for a six yard gain in game with Notre Dame here. Purdue defeated the Irish 37-22, becoming No. 1 in the country.

Leroy Keyes, a two-time All-American at Purdue, died at age 74 Thursday, according to ESPN's Adam Rittenberg.

"Leroy was a two-way player in the way that matters most—a great athlete and a great person," Purdue president Mitch Daniels said in a statement. "You never saw him without a smile on his face, or left him without a smile on your own. Every Boilermaker lost a good friend today."

Keyes ran for 2,090 yards and 29 touchdowns while catching 80 passes for 1,204 yards and seven scores over three seasons as a member of the Boilermakers.

As a freshman, he helped Purdue beat USC in the 1967 Rose Bowl. While the school didn't reach those heights again over the next two years, the Virginia native thrived. He finished third in the 1967 Heisman Trophy voting and was runner-up to O.J. Simpson in 1968.

The Philadelphia Eagles selected Keyes with the third overall pick in the 1969 draft, but he struggled to carve out a pro career. He ran for 361 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie but was moved to strong safety by his third season in the NFL. He last played for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1973.

Still, Keyes' achievements at Purdue were enough to get him inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1990. 

"A throwback to the era of two-way players, Leroy Keyes did it all for the Boilermakers in the mid-1960s," said National Football Foundation chairman Archie Manning. "He was a great ambassador for the game throughout his entire life, making an impact in West Lafayette and in the Chicago area, where he became a valued participant at many NFF chapter events. He will be deeply missed, and our thoughts and prayers are with his many family and friends."


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