“Happy-go-lucky,” “polite” and “respectful” are among the words people used to describe a Seymour High School senior who was killed in a wreck early Wednesday morning.
Indiana State Police said they believe Nikson Cribs, 19, of Seymour, was having problems with his vehicle as he was traveling southbound in the left lane of Interstate 65 near the Jackson-Bartholomew county line at about 3 a.m. Wednesday.
A truck, being driven by Coleden Hoeltke, 21, of Columbus, also was traveling in the left lane when it struck the rear of Cribs’ vehicle.
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Cribs was pronounced dead at the scene, while Hoeltke was transported to Columbus Regional Health for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
Cribs had met his graduation requirements earlier this school year and recently had been working a third-shift job in Columbus.
Cribs was a sophomore when he and his younger brother, Evens, moved to Seymour from Florida in 2013. That was also the year Josh Shattuck began his career as head football coach at Seymour High School and coached the Cribs brothers.
“He was a success story in our program, that’s for sure,” Shattuck said of Nikson Cribs. “He’s a guy that didn’t really get on the field much his first year or even his second year, then ended up starting as an undersized defensive lineman as a senior.”
Shattuck said Cribs was a “max-effort guy.”
“He was very athletic, but he was extremely coachable,” he said. “He just always had a smile on his face. Just one of the most happy-go-lucky kids you’ll ever meet. I know everybody loved him socially. He was a refreshing dose of honesty. He just said what he thought and was always laughing.”
Football gave Cribs a sense of accountability, Shattuck said.
“He really bought into that,” Shattuck said. “He had a job. He was always working, so he balanced a lot of stuff.”
Shattuck said Cribs’ death hits home on multiple fronts.
“No. 1, he played for us. And No. 2, he’s got a sibling who is a huge part of our program and is still on our team,” Shattuck said. “For us, it’s going to be making sure we pay our respects to Nikson and at the same time balance that with making sure we support Evens and their entire family.”
Brad Knight, an assistant coach with the Seymour High School football team, said a couple of stories come to mind when he thinks of Cribs.
One is him having the nickname “Gerb.”
“It took me forever to figure out what they were talking about,” Knight said. “I finally asked him one day, and he started laughing. He said the younger kids were complaining about the heat and how hard practice was. He told them to stop because they were just being a bunch of gerbs. I asked what a gerb was, and he said, ‘You know, coach, the baby food. They were whining like babies.’ So since then, the name ‘Gerb’ stuck to him.”
Another story is a little more personal. Knight said he was at a bank one day and happened to look into one of the offices and saw Cribs talking with a manager.
“I waved at him to say hello, and he came outside to speak to me for a few moments,” Knight said. “I asked what he was up to, and he said he was opening a checking account for the first time. He then asked me to come in so he could introduce me as his football coach to the manager of the bank. That’s the kind of kid Nikson was. He was proud of where he had been, where he was and where he was going in life. He was always very polite and respectful to me.”
During his time at Seymour High School, Cribs also was on the track and field team.
“He was a valuable part of the track team, both on the track and in the locker room,” said Randy Fife, boys track and field coach at Seymour High School. “He was a hard worker for us and showed a lot of improvement through the course of the season. He was the kind of runner that worked hard and helped make those other runners around him work hard.”
Fife also noted Cribs’ great sense of humor and said he was an outgoing, fun-loving person.
“He’s the kind of athlete that every coach likes to have on the team,” Fife said. “He’ll leave behind lots of friends. He’ll be missed.”