The Jets held their last open practice of training camp Wednesday, and in the days after the final preseason game at Philadelphia they will hold their last practice of any kind on the fields surrounding Weeb Ewbank Hall.
When it was first announced the Jets were building a new training facility in Florham Park, N.J., everyone knew these days were coming. But they still hit some harder than others.
Take Connie Nicholas Carberg.
If you don't know Connie, you'd surely know she's a Jets fan. On this day early in training camp she is dressed in green and white as she usually is for her annual forays back to Hempstead, N.Y., back in the neighborhood of her home town of Babylon. That includes her Jets watch, ring, earrings and bracelet, plus five golden chains, each different but bearing a Jets logo, around her neck.
Yet despite the off-season acquisitions and the buzz around the team (this interview was pre-Favre), Connie is still a little somber this day.
"I know there's change and progress and all that kind of thing," she says wistfully, sitting on the couch outside the receptionists desk. "But this is a very emotional time. I was here when this building opened up. I saw it open."
She knew the place before it was named Weeb Ewbank Hall, because Weeb himself walked the halls for the first time in 1968, the year he and Joe Namath and all those fabled Jets were building a championship team to shock the football world.
But if you do know Connie, that's no surprise. Many Jets fans are aware of her place in Green & White annals. Her dad, Dr. Calvin Nicholas, was the Jets' internist and her uncle, Dr. James Nicholas, was the team orthopedist.
And Connie, who at 12 years old in a football family was conducting her own NFL mock drafts, began her rise through the organization, from secretary to coaching liaison to — under GM Al Ward and director of player personnel Mike Holovak —the league's first female scout.
"They let me make the last pick of the 1975 draft," she recalled. "I picked [Ohio State TE] Mike Bartosek in the 17th round. He didn't make the team, but he wasn't the first player cut.
Four years later she played a pivotal role in the franchise's history. She was asked to recommend a player to replace an injured Senior Bowl player. She reviewed film — in those days scouting video was literally on reel-to-reel film — and the statistics and talked to six finalists for the gig.
"Mark Gastineau was just so ready to play," she said. "He was another pick I helped draft."
Gastineau in fact was named MVP of that Senior Bowl, then was taken by the Jets in the second round of the '79 draft.
With Leon Hess taking over Jets ownership, Connie was asked to give up scouting. She stayed with the team, grading films and interviewing players, until husband John Carberg was offered a position at a Toyota dealership in South Florida. Today she is president of Connie Carberg & Associates Public Relations and handles the PR for Al Hendrickson Toyota in Coconut Creek, Fla. And she makes the trek back to Long Island every year.
"George Sauer was my tennis partner. Gerry Philbin was the first Jet who came to my house. We used to have a kitchen at the complex and bake Joe Namath apple pies," she reminisced. "Weeb had so much time for everybody. He'd walk around every part of the building and talk with everyone. He made you feel important, no matter who you were."
The move to the brand new Atlantic Health Training Facility is bittersweet for Connie, as it is for many who recall the last 40 years at Hofstra. But Connie won't lose her place in Jets history or her nickname as Ms. Jet Fan. And her memories aren't moving anywhere.
"As sad as I feel about the coming move," she said, "the way people treated me over the years, it's been phenomenal."
And so it has.