Cribbs returns as well as he receives at KSU event
By Marla Ridenour- Akron Beacon Journal
KENT - It was supposed to be Joshua Cribbs Day, but as usual, he reversed field.
Honored at halftime of Saturday's 33-14 victory over Ball State as one of only four players in the 88-year history of Kent State football to have his number retired, the Browns' Pro Bowl wide receiver/returner gave as good as he got. The former record-setting quarterback presented his alma mater with a check for $100,000, which equaled the value of his four-year scholarship.
''I didn't know,'' said his father Harold Cribbs, a retired Washington, D.C., policeman. ''That was awesome. I was so surprised, but it was an honorable thing to do. I'm very proud of him.''
Cribbs signed a three-year, $20 million contract with $7.5 million guaranteed in March, perfect timing for a gift to the football program. But Cribbs showed the same extraordinary vision he uses to read blocks, this time hoping to inspire fellow NFL players from Kent State.
''I'm trying to set a precedent for guys when they make it to the league to give back to your school so greater things can happen. We can put our school on the map,'' said Cribbs, who made the Browns' roster as an undrafted free agent in 2005. ''I hope the best for the university because I feel like I'm in debt still to the university for how far I've come.
''The school has changed drastically since I've been here. The field — we used to have AstroTurf. Falling on that, it really hurt. We got a new field, the scoreboard, the stadium, the uniforms, everything has been fixed up. The recognition of Kent State that me and Antonio Gates and guys in the NFL have helped bring to the university . . . It's a great university and it's only going up from here.''
Wearing the letter jacket he earned as a KSU junior and used to woo his wife Maria, Cribbs watched highlights of his career on the scoreboard. Cribbs' No. 9 will join hall of fame linebacker Jack Lambert's No. 99, Canadian Football League Hall of Famer Jim Corrigall's No. 79 and all-time rushing leader Eric Wilkerson's No. 40 as the only numbers retired.
Holding 16-month-old son Israel, Cribbs was accompanied to midfield at Dix Stadium by his wife, daughter Kimorah, 7, and his parents. Joining them were Dean Pees, Cribbs' coach for his first three years at KSU and now linebackers coach of the Baltimore Ravens, and Pees' wife, Melody.
Cribbs remembered getting the go-ahead to marry Maria from Dean Pees, who had promised Harold and Billye Cribbs he'd take care of their son.
''I had a big meeting with coach, 12 o'clock at night, when I decided to get married,'' Cribbs recalled. ''He said, 'How do you feel about this girl? I know you've been talking about her.' He did grill me to make sure it was real. I've been married eight years. I made the right choice.''
Pees said, ''His parents knew I would treat him like he was my son.''
Pees remembered the coaches' gaffe during dinner at Rockne's the night of Cribbs' official visit, when three of his assistants and recruiting coordinator A.J. Pratt nearly cleared the plate of Cribbs' mom and dad.
''For these recruiting trips, we'd always have hors d'oeuvre trays sitting around the tables, where everybody just eats chicken wings and stuff,'' Pees recalled. ''The waitress takes their order, we don't really listen to it. They ordered the hors d'oeuvres tray as their meal. When they bring it out, we're talking to them, the coaches think it's hors d'oeuvres again, so they're reaching over to their plate and eating it.
''I thought they looked kind of funny. That kind of broke the ice a little bit.''
Harold Cribbs wanted his son far away from the mean streets of Southeast D.C., so he was not offended. Nor did he go hungry.
''They're constantly teasing me about eating off my plate,'' Harold Cribbs said. ''It was enough.''
Pees was not the only one thrilled to be part of Cribbs' day. Cribbs said he also ran into former offensive lineman Jason Andrews, a letterman in 2002-03 who came from Indiana for the occasion.
''It brings me back to college days and how those guys looked out for me,'' Cribbs said. ''To see him here, it means so much to me. These guys still consider me their friends.''
Kent State coach Doug Martin believes he could have made an NFL-caliber quarterback out of Cribbs if they'd been together one more season.
''I'll go to my grave saying he could have been an NFL quarterback if somebody would have given him the opportunity,'' Martin said. ''The last four games of his senior year, that offense was as good as anybody in the country. I would have loved to coach Josh for one more year. He could have been really dynamic throwing the football because he has a great understanding of the game. I mean, he is really bright.''
Cribbs said Martin wanted him to start his pro career as a quarterback in the Canadian Football League.
''I had to stress to him, 'Hey man, times are hard. I want to play in the league and I don't care how I play,' '' Cribbs said.
But Cribbs' football career is about opportunity seized, not opportunities missed. The crowd of 15,468 saw some of the qualities Martin values in Cribbs.
''He's very grateful for what this university did for him,'' Martin said.''You don't get that a lot of times from guys who go on to have the stardom he's had. He very much appreciates the role that people here played in his life.''
Cribbs proved that Saturday, not only with a huge cardboard check, but with the huge hug he gave Melody Pees.