The Cleveland Browns Legends Program will grow by two members this fall as the team will induct Josh Cribbs and Webster Slaughter.
A second-round selection in the 1986 NFL Draft out of San Diego State, Slaughter spent six seasons with the Browns, a span that included three trips to the AFC Championship Game. He earned a Pro Bowl selection in 1989 when he had 65 receptions for 1,236 yards - still the third-most in franchise history for a single season.
During his time with the Browns, Slaughter had 305 receptions (currently ninth on the all-time franchise list), 4,834 yards (eighth all-time) and 27 touchdowns (10th all-time).
Four receptions in particular stand out from Slaughter’s career:
- His 97-yard touchdown catch against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in 1989, which was the longest in both franchise history and on Monday Night Football at the time.
- His game-winning 36-yard touchdown catch in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1986.
- His 37-yard reception near the end of the 1986 playoff game against the New York Jets that set up Mark Moseley’s game-tying field goal.
- His game-winning 22-yard touchdown reception against the Houston Oilers in the final week of the 1988 season that helped the Browns overcome a 23-7 deficit and secure a playoff spot.
Slaughter called his years with the Browns the best of his career, according to clevelandbrowns.com:
“It was amazing. At the time of my life, that was the most exciting thing I’d ever been a part of. The way the team came together, the camaraderie between all the players and how the city jumped behind the team and drove us, really, to those championship games, it was one of the most special times of my life.
“I will never forget my six years in Cleveland. I played in other places but none of those places ever gave me the feeling that I had when I played for the Cleveland Browns. It was a different feeling and totally special.
“If I had to pick another team to play for, I would pick the Cleveland Browns. I couldn’t pick another team. I had so much fun that I didn’t know I was going to have. I met so many friends I didn’t know I would meet. It was the most exciting set of fans to play for.”
The Browns signed Cribbs as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State in 2005. During his eight seasons in Cleveland, Cribbs became arguably the second-best player after Joe Thomas that the Browns signed or drafted from 1999 to 2017.
A quarterback with the Golden Flashes, Cribbs made his mark on the NFL as a return man, scoring the first of his eight kickoff return touchdowns in 2005 when he returned a kick 90 yards against the Detroit Lions.
Cribbs was a three-time Pro Bowl selection, and had three kick return touchdowns in 2007 and 2009. He holds 11 franchise records, according to the team’s website, and had 11 kick returns for touchdowns with the Browns (eight on punts and three on kickoffs), 10,015 kickoff return yards (tops in franchise history and 6,830 yards ahead of second-place Dino Hall), and 2,154 punt return yards (tops in franchise history).
He retired after the 2014 NFL season with the third-most return yards in league history (13,488), third-most kickoff return yards (11,113) and the fifth-most return touchdowns (11).
Cribbs embraced the idea of being an underdog, he told the team’s website:
“I just tried to embody everything Browns fans stand for. Cleveland is not as big as New York City or LA. We’re just a hard-working, football town, blue-collar to the core. I embodied what they stood for, having to start from nothing, undrafted, having to fight my way onto the team, having to be in a position lower on the team … They lived through me and every game and every time I would encounter a fan, they would tell a story of how bad they wanted us to win or a story of when they were at the game in the stands and they wanted me to win so bad.
“I hear all these stories and I used to take it to the field knowing the fans are rooting for me. I would take all that energy and it would boost me during the game.”
The Browns created the Legends Program in 2001, with the first class including the team’s Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees. An eight-member selection panel chooses the players to be honored, and to qualify a player must have been with the Browns for at least five seasons, been a “major contributor” at their respective position, and been retired from the NFL for at least five seasons, according to the team.