WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue icon, College Football Hall of Fame member and two-time consensus All-American Marvin “Leroy” Keyes died this morning (April 15). He was 74.
“Leroy was a two-way player in the way that matters most — a great athlete and a great person,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said. “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.”
A megastar for the Boilermakers from 1966 to 1968, Keyes remains the only two-time consensus All-American in school history. He finished third and second in balloting for the Heisman Trophy as a halfback his junior and senior seasons.
“Leroy was a true Boilermaker icon,” vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics Mike Bobinski said. “He will be missed not only as a legendary player, but even more so for the positive impact he had on so many over the course of his life.”
Keyes set school records for career touchdowns (37), points (222) and all-purpose yards (3,757). He was voted the All-Time Greatest Player as part of the 100-year anniversary of Purdue football in 1987, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and was an inaugural member of the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994.
As a junior, Keyes scored 19 touchdowns (13 rushing and six receiving) to set the Purdue season record, which still stands, and led the nation with a school-record 114 points en route to being honored as the Big Ten Conference Most Valuable Player. The following year, he became the first Boilermaker to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and was selected to the 1968 East-West Shrine Game.
In addition to the season touchdown record, Keyes remains the Purdue record-holder for rushing average in a season (6.6 yards per carry in 1967) and career (5.88). He ranks third all-time in total touchdowns, fifth in rushing touchdowns (29), sixth in points, ninth in all-purpose yards, 11th in rushing yards and 19th in rushing attempts (356). His 1,870 all-purpose yards as a junior were the school standard for 40 years until Dorien Bryant topped it in 2007. Keyes still owns the longest fumble return by a Boilermaker with a 95-yarder at Notre Dame on Sept. 24, 1966.
Nicknamed “The Golden Mr. Do-Everything” and regarded as the pied piper of Purdue, Keyes’ career statistics included 2,094 rushing yards, 80 receptions, eight touchdown passes (among 12 completions), four interceptions as a defensive halfback and a 25.8-yard kickoff return average. He also handled kickoff duties.
Keyes was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the third overall pick of the 1969 National Football League Draft. A running back and safety, he played for the Eagles from 1969 to 1972 and for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1973 before injuries curtailed his career. He had six interceptions and three fumble recoveries in 1971.
A desegregation specialist for the Philadelphia school district for 16 years, Keyes returned to Purdue as running backs coach under Jim Colletto in 1995 and 1996. Keyes subsequently served as an administrative assistant for the football program under Joe Tiller from 1997 to 1999 and then a member of the John Purdue Club staff until his retirement in 2011.
Keyes, born Feb. 18, 1947, is survived by his wife, Monica, and children, Raymond, Jacqueline, Courtland and Colin.