Leanne Brown never thought she'd admit to being glad she didn't have a date for her senior prom. If she'd already had a date, she wouldn't have been able to walk into the event on the arm of former Cleveland Brown Josh Cribbs.
"I guess everything happens for a reason," said the 18-year-old Champion High School senior. "I'm glad it worked out this way."
All eyes were on the couple as they met family and friends at JD's Posthouse here Saturday evening for photos between stops at the high school for the pre-prom procession and McMenamy's Restaurant and Banquet Center for the big event.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Champion High School senior Leanne Brown, 18, right, and her prom date, former Browns player Joshua Cribbs, arrive at JD’s Posthouse in Champion on Saturday.
Cribbs appeared to take the steady stream of camera flashes and handshakes in stride as he posed with Brown, her classmates, friends and family members.
"It's just nice to see her smile," he said of his date.
Brown, who celebrated her birthday Tuesday, smiled brightly as she recalled Cribbs asking her when to the prom.
"I was amazed," she said. "I just couldn't believe he would do that."
Brown's mother, Tanya, serves as an assistant for Cribbs and other current Browns' players. Cribbs said when he realized the younger Brown didn't have a date for the prom he agreed with her mom that it would be a nice gesture if her asked her if he could be her escort.
The Champion senior had developed a relationship with Cribbs and his family by babysitting his children in the past.
Tears filled Tanya Brown's eyes as she watched her daughter with Cribbs.
"It's so hard to think your daughter is going to miss her senior prom," Tanya Brown said. "This means so much to her and to me. I can't even say how much."
Brown typically calls her mom after school each day. However, one day Cribbs answered the phone instead of her mom and asked her to the prom.
"She asked me if I was serious and I told her that I was," he explained.
And that's how he came to be her special guest on Saturday.
"I just wanted to do something nice for her," Cribbs said. "She's a really nice girl and I thought it would be something nice to do for her, the school, all the kids, but especially for her."
He said she didn't think he was serious about his request. He even tweeted to his 130,000-plus followers that he would be escorting the senior to her prom: "Im excited 2be going 2the Champion high school senior prom April 13th ... gotta break out my dancing shoes once again."
After the two made the "date" official, Brown had to get the school's permission to bring a 30-year-old pro football player to the prom.
On Saturday, Brown said she didn't mind sharing her date with her classmates, who created a buzz at JD's on Mahoning Avenue. Cribb's said his wife didn't mind him going to the prom - a gesture he said has become popular among his colleagues.
"I was really nervous at first but now it's nice," Brown said. "Once we got to the school I was OK. It's exciting. I'm relaxing now. I'm having a good time with it. I didn't think I would be comfortable with it but I kind of like the attention now. It's nice to see how everyone is reacting. It's nice because I'm a senior and it's my last year. It's a fun way to say good-bye to high school. "
As she posed for pictures with her date, Brown jokingly asked everyone to look at her and Cribbs instead of focusing on Cribb's gold and diamond covered sneakers that sparkled almost as much as her gold dress.
"I can honestly say this has been the best day of my life," she said. "It couldn't have been better. I couldn't have had a better date. He's a good guy. He really turned everything around for me. I can't thank him enough."