The First Girl Scout
From the moment Connie Nicholas Carberg flung open the door of her cozy apartment in Coconut Creek and greeted me with her sunny smile and infectious laugh, I knew I was in for a wild ride. This special lady is a concentrated ball of energy who is brimming with charisma. As she led me into her home, I couldn’t help but notice that she was dressed from head to toe in green and white … a Mark Gastineau jersey, green and white shorts, and her jewelry? … an NFL necklace layered with a multitude of others from the New York Jets. Surrounded by scrapbooks, signed photos, books, and NFL paraphernalia I realized that she was born to be wild … for football!
Many of you perhaps have never heard of Connie … she leads a relatively quiet life with her devoted husband of 28 years, John Carberg. But many of you have–via the local Chambers of Commerce. Connie is a veritable fixture on the Board of the Coconut Creek and CS Chambers. But they probably have no idea what lurks beneath her happy and positive exterior. Looks can be deceiving, for this suburban wife and mother is no sideline spectator. She is an amazing woman with enough energy to fill a stadium and she knows more about football than any seasoned pro. As a child she was a self-proclaimed tomboy, choosing to play sports instead of with dolls and as a teenager she would watch and evaluate college football prospects. Then at the age of 25 her life took an obvious turn in the direction it had long been heading when she
became the National Football League’s FIRST female scout.
That’s right boys, this all-girl was playing in the big-time. So how does a nice, Catholic girl from Long Island end up scouting college talent for the New York Jets? Well, it doesn’t take long to know that her identity was shaped by the world she was born into. Raised in Babylon, New York, Connie grew up in a bustling household full of family and friends. Living with two brothers, Bruce and Chris, and being surrounded by sports her whole life, Connie felt her childhood was nothing short of idyllic. Her mother, Lynne, was the epitome of perfection and style. She cooked and cleaned in high heels and filled their lives with an overwhelming sense of warmth and comfort that would put June Cleaver to shame. Connie’s father Cal Nicholas, a gentle, caring man and devoted father, put his family first but always made time for others. He was a respected doctor who ran his practice out of their home.
When Connie was 12-years old he became the New York Jets team internist and her uncle, James Nicholas (aka “Nick the Knife”… a tribute to his surgical skills) was the team’s much-needed orthopedist. From that point on their lives were forever changed. Suddenly, their days were filled with surprise visits from Jets players coming to see her father for one medical problem or another. They would stay for dinner, chat over coffee, or just hang out with the family. Joe Namath, George Sauer, Emerson Boozer, and most of the 1968-69 Superbowl team were regular visitors to their home. Being the team doctor, her father had 17 seats to the games on Sundays! He would take friends, neighbors, (Captain Kangaroo lived around the corner and was a huge Jets fan!), and family to the games and treat everyone to dinner afterward at the Diamond Club in Shea Stadium. “My parents were terrific, the best you could askfor,” said Connie, “We all had so much fun!” Her eyes sparkled with such loving memories and as she spoke about her charmed life I was suddenly wishing I could have been there too. “It was a wonderful childhood,” Connie added, “We never wanted to grow up.” After graduating from high school she spent two years at Wheaton College playing forward for the girl’s basketball team. But she missed “big time sports” and decided to transfer to Ohio State. Although she didn’t play basketball there, she still had a passion for sports and was impressed with their football coach, Woody Hayes. After reading his book, “You Win with People,” she asked him to sign it. He was so impressed with her enthusiasm and knowledge of football that he invited her to all the team’s practices. “He sat down and talked with me about sports,” she said, “I was a Home Economics major but he opened my mind to other choices and opportunities. He was a wonderful, caring man and mentor.”
When Connie graduated from college she decided to go back to Babylon to consider her options. She got a job offer to teach that she considered briefly but her father’s 50th birthday party opened up a whole new game plan. Attended by most of the Jets organization,Connie started talking to Charlie Winner, their head coach at the time. He told Connie thatthey were building a new complex at Hofstra University and asked if she would like to work for them. “Forget teaching,” Connie exclaimed with her signature enthusiasm, “I would have done anything to work for the Jets!” She started working as a secretary and took calls and
relayed information for coaches, trainers, and the scouting department. “I ate, drank, and slept Jets football,” said Connie, “I even watched college football to see who the Jets should draft.” That little obsession was a blessing in disguise, because scouting great, and director of player personnel, Mike Holovak, noticed her talent. When Al Ward was hired as the Jets’ general manager he and Holovak approached her to become a scout … the first woman scout in the NFL. Connie was in football heaven! And she made history at the same time. She traveled all over, from the Orange Bowl, to Boston College, and even back to her alma mater Ohio State to find fresh talent. She graded film (reel to reel back then!) and interviewed players to review not only their skills but also their personalities and character.
Then, in 1978 she was asked to find a replacement player for the Senior Bowl after one of the defensive linemen was injured in an accident. After carefully checking their stats, Connie narrowed it down to six players. The first ones she called were not very motivated but one player responded with such enthusiasm and willingness to play that she recommended him immediately.
That player was Mark Gastineau.
Not only did he win the title of MVP in that game, but the Jets drafted him in the secondround and he went on to be part of the legendary New York Sack Exchange. The lady knows her stuff! And anyone who knows the lady, already knew that.
Connie’s scouting career came to an end when owner, Leon Hess, decided he didn’t want a woman scouting for the team. “It was a different world back then,” remembers Connie, “I didn’t make a fuss, I just stepped down.” She stayed with the organization working in the office, grading films and interviewing players. When her husband John was offered a job at Southeast Toyota, she decided to leave the Jets and move to Florida so they could start a family (John’s daughter Lisa is a successful anchor for WVIT, an NBC affiliate in Connecticut and together they have a 23-year-old son, Chris, who is a talented writer and actor living in Orlando—see separate story this issue). Every summer she returns to Long Island to visit the Jets in their training camp … something she will always be a part of.
Now Connie spends her days working for Al Hendrickson Toyota and is an active member of her community. In addition to her Chamber work, just last year she ended a 17-year coaching position in girl’s basketball. Her advice for girls pursuing a career in sports? “Just get out there and do what you love,” says Connie, “I was never a woman’s libber, I just loved sports.”
After spending time with this incredible woman you realized that when Connie Nicholas Carberg decided to step on the field, we ALL won the toss … and it is her caring heart and undying spirit that we have so gratefully elected to receive!