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Sun Sentinel – October 26, 2012

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Coconut Creek woman blazed trails with her eye for football talent

October 26, 2012 | By Ihosvani Rodriguez, Sun Sentinel

The New York Jets are going to have it tough this weekend against the Dolphins and will need Tim Tebow and perhaps even some Broadway Joe to help them win.

It’s not a prediction coming from some television or newspaper pundit, but rather from Connie Carberg, a 61-year-old Coconut Creek woman who really, really knows the New York Jets.

“I am not going to say they are going to lose, but they are going to have a hard time with the Dolphins this weekend,” Carberg said. “I see [Ryan] Tannehill and I see the Dolphins have a very good quarterback.”

Carberg has been making predictions about the Jets ever since 1974 when she became the National Football League’s first female talent scout for her beloved team.

A pioneering woman in a sport teeming with testosterone, Carberg’s opinions on players and her ability to spot talent by watching hours of film earned her the job and the title “Ms. Jet.”

Remember Mark Gastineau? She discovered him.

“They inducted him into the Ring of Honor this year, and he wanted me to go and do the Sack Dance with him,” Carberg said. “He’s definitely my biggest find.”

Carberg’s affiliation with the Jets began when she was a teenager. Her father, Calvin Nicholas, and her uncle, James Nicholas, were team doctors. It was normal to see players such as Joe Namath and coach Weeb Ewbank just hanging around her house in Long Island.

Her admiration for the team went beyond just being a fan. She remembers conducting her own mock drafts and preparing player reports after each game.

After graduating from Ohio State University, she became the first woman hired by the Jets, as a secretary of sorts. She answered phones, made coffee, ran errands, baked pies and arranged meetings with players and fans.

“Back then it was all very different. It wasn’t like the big business that it is now. People would just show up and wanted to say hello to the players,” she said. “It was a one-story building and I could just go back to the locker room and say, “Hey, Joe, one of your fans is here to meet you.’ “

But her job soon evolved as she impressed coaches and assistants with her football knowledge. The coaches soon began assigning her to watch film and visit colleges. They invited her into the team’s draft room.

In 1975, she was asked to make the team’s last draft pick during Round 17. She went with Ohio State tight end Mike Bartoszek.

“He didn’t make the team, but he wasn’t the first or second to be cut that summer,” Carberg said.

Carberg went on to become a full-time scouting assistant with the team. In addition to being credited with finding Gastineau before the 1979 draft, she along with other scouts picked Wesley Walker, who became a two-time Pro Bowl receiver and the team’s MVP in 1978. Scouts from other teams had shunned Walker because he was legally blind in one eye.

Carberg said she never really thought about the uniqueness of being a woman in a man’s sport during the 1970s, and believes it was that attitude that earned her respect from the players with whom she worked.

“It was something that I loved so much. I saw an opportunity and took it and never really looked at it as a pioneering sort of thing,” she said. “I worked hard on it and I think the players all saw that and consider me as one of the staff.”

Carberg left the team in 1980 after her husband took a job in Coral Springs, where the couple moved to raise a family.

Carberg said she still watches football, both college and pro, all weekend. Just as she did when she was a teenager, she still enjoys taking notes during games and writing scouting reports on the players she’s keeping an eye on. She returns each year to New York to attend summer camp and keeps a blog on Jets news.

Carberg, now a public relations manager with Al Hendrickson Toyota/Scion, said her loyalty to the Jets has kept her from trying to get a job with the Dolphins all these years.

“I just can’t bring myself to do that. I love my Jets too much,” she said.

And while almost everyone — including some Jets fans — finds it fashionable to say Tebow stinks, Carberg is not ready to sack him.

“I love Tim Tebow; he’s a great human being. He’s always been a winner,” she said. “I just wish they’d give him a little bit more playing time.”; 954-356-4605 or @GeoRodriguez on Twitter

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