On January 29, 1975, Connie Carberg made history. Before she made history with the New York Jets as the first female scout in NFL history, Carberg made the first ever selection of a player by a woman in the NFL Draft.
Carberg had been on the job with the Jets for about seven months when the 1975 NFL Draft rolled around. In the days before the NFL Combine and the Pro Day circuit, the draft was held shortly after the conclusion of the season and days following the annual Senior Bowl. The preceding summer, Carberg took a job with the Jets as a receptionist following her graduation from Ohio State.
In this clerical job, Carberg was granted access into the world of the team’s war room once the draft rolled around. The draft, 17 rounds back then and held over two days, was a grind. It was far from the polished and television-ready production that it is today. It wasn’t on multiple networks and streamed digitally across platforms. There were no mock drafts and literally no hype.
For a football junkie like Carberg, however, the elation of drafting a coveted player as well as the agony of losing a prospect to another team combined for a memorable two days.
Her job was to organize the team’s reports in order for director of player personnel Homer Edington, head coach Charley Winner and the Jets scouts. There was also a wall full of tiny pieces of paper. On each slip were names, hundreds of them, listing the prospects, their individual position and facts such as height, weight, 40 time and other notables.
She had the added responsibility of calling in the Jets selection to the league, where they were headquartered at the Hilton in Rockefeller Center. This, she says, was a thrill.
“There were no computers, no combines, no pre-draft physicals, no Pro Days, no cell phones and no interviews,” Carberg said.
“And getting films of players was not easy. Scouts had to really get to know college coaches, trainers, friends of players - anything to get extra info when visiting schools.”
She remembers fondly – “This was my first draft in the ‘war room’.” Now retired and living in Florida, Carberg still makes an annual trip to the Jets facility in Florham Park, N.J. every year for alumni weekend. She loves seeing the players from her time with the Jets and catching up with friends such as Mark Gastineau and Wes Walker.
The draft back then was a bit of a shot in the dark. With no combine or pro days, teams were left trying to swap information with others teams about prospects. It was about relationships and what teams were able to get from their scouting department.
An already imperfect science - despite today’s big business and the funneling of analytics and data through world class technology – was truly a challenge in those days. She didn’t care, however. Being in that room was a love affair with football for Carberg.
She had always loved football. Her father, Dr. Cal Nicholas, was the franchise’s first team physician dating back to when they were the New York Titans. She loved the Jets and being around the team, watching football and taking detailed notes as a young girl at training camp or when she accompanied her father to practice.
At Ohio State, she befriended Woody Hayes, the legendary Buckeyes head coach. Hayes and Carberg struck a relationship, the head coach seeing in Carberg a true student of the game with passion to learn more about football.
In particular, she loved evaluating players. Hayes permitted the co-ed to attend practice anytime she wanted. This included when practice was closed; Carberg had the green light to go past security and sit in the stands to watch the Buckeyes practice.
So come the draft’s final round, there was excitement that the long grind of 17 rounds was nearly over. The Jets had a good, solid draft that day. Carberg didn’t know that history was about to unfold as soon as the team went on the clock.
At pick No. 430, Eddington, in charge of player personnel, turned to Carberg and said “You’re making this selection, Connie.” She was floored.
There was precedent for this, but never had a woman made a selection in the history of the league.
Given the length of the draft, it wasn’t uncommon for teams to allow scouts to get a selection in the later rounds, especially if they felt particularly passionate about a certain prospect. But someone in a clerical position, let alone a relatively new employee who was a receptionist, had never before made a pick.
Even more so, Carberg being a woman made this a most unusual move by Eddington. A receptionist, the only time Carberg was supposed to be heard in the draft room was when she phoned in the Jets selection to the league’s set-up at the Hilton.
Other than her duties in and around the office, Carberg was supposed to be seen but not heard.
Instead, Eddington had liked what he had seen in her the previous seven months since she joined the personnel department. She was a relentless worker and loved the game.
It didn’t hurt that she was knowledgeable.
“I knew that had never happened and was shocked,” Carberg said. “So I made a selection, Mike Bartoszek, tight end out of ‘The’ Ohio State University. I knew it was a big deal because I took his picture when he came to training camp - back then it was rare to take pictures at work.”
Eight months later before the season started, Carberg got called into general manager Al Ward’s office. By this time, former running backs coach Mike Holovak had been named director of player personnel.
“They approached me about becoming a scout,” Carberg said. “The first female scout in the NFL.”
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