The Big Ten and Purdue Boilermakers lost one of its all-time greats today as legendary running back Leroy Keyes passed away. He was 74 years old.
In the late 1960s, Keyes was one of the most versatile running backs in college football. He excelled at both running the ball and catching it, racking up over 3,000 yards from scrimmage and 34 touchdowns between 1968 and 1969.
Keyes was a two-time finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He finished third to Gary Beban in 1967 and second behind O.J. Simpson in 1968.
Keyes’ incredible 1967 season saw him score 13 touchdowns on the ground and another six through the air. His dominance helped Purdue secure their first-ever Big Ten title share.
After another superb season in 1968, Keyes entered the NFL draft, where he went No. 3 overall to the Philadelphia Eagles.
RIP to the Purdue legend Leroy Keyes., legit 2-way star with the Boilermakers. Dynamo at DB and HB. Nearly won the Heisman in 1967 and 1968. Finished 3rd to Gary Beban and O.J. in 1967 and 2nd to Simpson in 1968. pic.twitter.com/ml9jCQW7vV
— rickbozich (@rickbozich) April 15, 2021
Leroy Keyes didn’t find quite as much success at the NFL level. He had 361 yards and three touchdowns for the Eagles as a rookie but soon changed positions to safety, where he found slightly more success.
Between 1971 and 1972, Keyes recorded eight interceptions and two fumble recoveries and never missed a game.
Keyes retired after the 1973 season but remained close to the game for many years after. He served as Purdue’s assistant athletic director for a time and worked for the John Purdue Club.
Among the many post-football accolades Leroy Keyes received were induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Rose Bowl Hall of Fame and Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
Our hearts go out to Mr. Keyes’ family and loved ones.