Athletic department retires Joshua Cribbs’ number

Lance Lysowski

Before sophomore quarterback Spencer Keith stepped a foot into high school, Josh Cribbs was breaking Kent State records in multiple passing and rushing categories.

Yesterday, Joel Nielsen, Kent State director of athletics, announced the department would retire Cribbs’ number 9 jersey in a halftime ceremony on Oct. 30.

The star kick returner and wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns has been selected to the Pro Bowl twice and still holds school records with 38 rushing touchdowns, 616 passing completions, 1,123 passing attempts, 10,839 total yards and 41 total touchdowns.

Nielsen said the decision to retire the three-time captain’s jersey was inevitable because of his athletic success and his contributions to the community.

“The young man sitting next to me is a positive role model for so many people in so many ways,” Nielsen said. “As an athlete, Joshua redefined the quarterback position during his days as a Golden Flash. On a personal side, Joshua is a wonderful father, husband, brother and son.”

The former quarterback was just the second player in NCAA history to record two seasons with 1,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing when he accomplished the feat in his freshman and sophomore seasons.

Cribbs said it’s “a great honor to be part of a legacy.”

“I feel like Kent State has given me that readiness,” Cribbs said. “You see people who haven’t went to college, and you see where they fall off. It’s about that college experience; that social experience you get in college. I think college is the important step to joining the rest of the world, and being successful in life. It forced me to grow up fast, but at the same time, it helped me become a man. My success started at Kent State University.”


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At the conclusion of his college football career, Cribbs was not chosen in the 2005 National Football League Draft. The Browns signed him as a free agent to play wide receiver and kick returner where he made an immediate impact. He currently holds the NFL record with eight kickoff returns for a touchdown.

After five successful seasons at the next level, Cribbs felt his work at Kent State was not finished. With 15 credit hours left to graduate, he decided to work toward his college degree. Last spring, Cribbs stood in front of his friends, family and fellow students as President Lester Lefton handed him his diploma for a bachelor’s degree in communication studies.

The 6-foot-1-inch receiver said his work with children made him realize that he had to return to school.

“The feeling I felt when I graduated was a lifetime achievement,” Cribbs said. “It was like a burden was finally lifted off of my shoulders. You are preaching to kids, and you have so many engagements where you are talking to people and trying to steer them in the right direction. I look at my own life, we all have to do that sometimes. I had a lot of promises to keep to get my degree.“

When Cribbs’ jersey is officially retired, he will join NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert, Canadian Football League Hall of Famer Jim Corrigall and Kent State’s second all-time leading rusher, Eric Wilkerson.

Ten Kent State alumni currently play in the NFL, and Cribbs said the former Flashes making a name for their school is exciting.

“In the NFL, there are guys from all over,” Cribbs said. “They come from powerhouses like Ohio State, Michigan and USC, and I’m going back saying we had Jack Lambert. It’s great to say that we have some guys in the league now from Kent State. We’re starting to put guys in the NFL that are creating an impact. We had two guys in the Super Bowl last year.

“We’re making our name known, and we’re doing our college proud. I think it’s most important that we’re putting Kent State on the map in this era from a positive standpoint.”

Joshua Cribbs Day highlights the Flashes’ matchup on Oct. 30 against Ball State. The Pro Bowler will sign autographs before the game, and the recognition ceremony will take place at halftime with Kent State’s newest broadcast partner, television station WJW Fox 8 in Cleveland, covering the game.

“Kent State is a great college, they have a good fan base and it’s time for them to come up and support their team,” Cribbs said. “It’s a great university with great tradition.”

Cribbs’ Company

Linebacker Jack Lambert: The eight-time Pro Bowl selection won four Super Bowls as a cornerstone of the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Steel Curtain Defense.”

Running back Eric Wilkerson: Wilkerson’s number 40 was retired after he finished his career as Kent State’s all-time leading rusher by more than 1,200.

Defensive lineman Jim Corrigall: After being named an All-Mid American Conference selection for three years in a row, Corrigall played 11 seasons in the Canadian Football League. He was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame in 1990.

Contact Lance Lysowski at [email protected].