Florham Park, N.J. — Connie Carberg was incredibly antsy, barely able to contain her excitement a few moments before picking up the phone and making one of the most important calls in New York Jets history.
The team was on the clock in the second round of the 1979 NFL draft, and she had just received confirmation of the choice from the front office. An ecstatic Carberg shouted “All right!” and then said the words she had been dreaming about for weeks.
“The New York Jets,” Carberg proudly recalled announcing, “select Mark Gastineau, East Central Oklahoma.”
Gastineau became one of the Jets’ best and most popular players — and helped cement Carberg’s place in NFL history as the league’s first female scout.
“I just wanted to jump out of the chair,” said Carberg, who had discovered the little-known Gastineau while scouting players for the Senior Bowl a few months earlier.
“It was so exciting and it was thrilling. Probably the biggest thrill of my life.”
Her journey from Jets team secretary to watching game films, traveling and scouting college players is the subject of a recently published book: “X’s and O’s Don’t Mean I Love You.” How she helped deliver the sack-dancing Gastineau to the Jets is just one of the fascinating behind-the-scenes tales told by Carberg and author Elisabeth Meinecke.
“You know, it’s a positive book,” Carberg said with a big smile. “I hope it’s an inspiring book for young girls, and for Jets fans in general.”
Carberg served in a scouting role for the Jets from 1976-80, breaking a gender barrier in the NFL by opening a door that gradually is becoming less of a novelty.
“I want women to see that it’s really possible and they can really do things without saying: ‘Hey, I’m a woman. I want it because I’m a woman,’” Carberg said before a recent Jets practice.
“Just do it because you love it and you never know where it’s going to take you.”
The sweet and spunky 66-year-old Carberg lives in Coconut Creek, Florida, with her husband, John, but makes a weeklong visit to Jets camp every summer — decked out in green and white shirts, earrings and necklaces.
This year, she is particularly proud of her team, which added Collette Smith to Todd Bowles’ staff as a coaching intern with the defensive backs through camp. New York also has three female scouting interns: Callie Brownson, Rachel Huhn and Marirose Roach. Many other teams around the league are helping narrow the NFL’s gender gap by hiring female coaching interns.
“It was a whole different world in the ‘70s,” said Carberg, who counts Woody Hayes, Weeb Ewbank, Walt Michaels, Lou Holtz and Al Ward as mentors.
“Title IX was just started, or hadn’t even started when I started working for the Jets. So, most people didn’t even think about women in that way.”
Carberg helped change that perception with her breakthrough more than 40 years ago when she joined her father, Dr. Calvin Nicholas, who had been the team’s chief internist since 1962, and uncle Dr. James Nicholas, the Jets’ orthopedist. H
Her passion for football — honed after befriending Hayes while attending Ohio State — got her through the door in 1974, first doing clerical work.
The Jets were impressed by Carberg’s passion for the game and keen eye for talent, and gave her the opportunity to select the team’s final draft pick in 1975: Ohio State tight end Mark Bartoszek in the 17th round.
She recalled Ward, New York’s general manager, and Mike Holovak, the director of player personnel, asking her one day early in 1976 if she wanted to do some scouting on a regular basis in addition to some of her usual duties.
Carberg, of course, jumped at the chance.
Kicker laments tragedy
Texans kicker Nick Novak, who grew up in Charlottesville, Va., is horrified by what happened in his hometown this past weekend. Novak discussed the situation with reporters two days after a car crashed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen others.
“I pray for those guys, the people that were injured,” he said. “It’s the devil’s work what’s going on there and it’s horrible.”
Novak moved to Charlottesville in fifth grade and remained there until he graduated from high school.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “That’s not how I was raised and it makes me emotional to talk about.”
AP reported the Dolphins signed undrafted free-agent receiver Trey Griffey, the son of Hall-of-Fame baseball slugger Ken Griffey Jr.
... Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (concussion symptoms) and has been ruled out for this week’s game.
... Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is getting reduced repetitions because of a tired arm.
... Bills newly acquired receiver Jordan Matthews has been diagnosed with a chip fracture in his sternum and is week to week.
... Broncos starting defensive end Jared Crick was carted off the practice field with a leg injury.