Connie Carberg is a staple of the Jets' preseason. She comes up from her Florida home to training camp every summer and seems to know everyone — players, reporters, staff, coaches and fans alike. She stands on the sidelines at camp each day with an infectious enthusiasm, accessorized in green and white gear from head to toe, radiating a positivity that’s undeniable.
But not only is she the Jets’ No. 1 fan, she’s got some wicked football smarts, as our neighbors and rivals to the northeast would say.
As a former scout for the Jets — and the only woman to have ever made a draft selection in the NFL (TE Mike Bartoszek, Ohio State, 17th round, 1975) — Carberg can evaluate the team from a unique perspective.
“I’m very encouraged compared to last year,” Carberg said. "Going to Cortland with the speed that we’ve brought in is what I was really hoping to get at wide receiver. Geno’s a year more mature. And of course there’s our defense. The defensive line is outstanding.
Carberg has done this team a lot of good over the years, helping to uncover some big names.
“Of course, it was Mark Gastineau,” Connie said of her most memorable discovery. “That was number one.”
She’s also got some pretty good friends in some pretty high places.
“I’ve known Joe Namath since I was 13 years old when he got drafted," she recalled. "I can say that Joe is one of the nicest people I have ever met. Even through the years growing up, I knew how lucky I was because he was as big as the Beatles. When we would go to hotels, there were thousands of people at every hotel that he was at. He was bigger than life, bigger than football, and I was so fortunate to say that he was my friend. He was just an amazing guy. And he bleeds green and white just like I do.”
Connie remembered growing up that the Giants had been around a long time when the Jets came along.
"We came into a league and we were trying to establish ourselves. We felt like when we played, it was like, ‘OK, we won, but it’s not that big of a deal’ because the NFL Giants were the king," she said. "But we kept playing along and kept playing along. … And then we drafted Joe Namath.”
In Namath's fourth season, he and the Jets reached the Super Bowl and then rocked the football world with their 16-7 win over Baltimore.
“We were underdogs by 17 points against the Colts, and very famously Joe says, ‘I guarantee we are going to beat them,’ " Carberg said. "And we did end up beating them. Now all of a sudden, we got accepted, we were good enough.”
But there was no way that Namath and his team of green and white warriors would stop there. They had a bone to pick with their countrymen.
“We win Super Bowl III in January of ’69 and then that summer we have an exhibition game against the Giants in the Yale Bowl,” Connie said. “We all stayed at a hotel in New Haven and I just remember it was a really big thing. I remember Namath saying, ‘This is as big as a Super Bowl.’ Because if we can beat the Giants even though it’s an exhibition, that will really cement this completely in New York as owning New York.
When the Jets and Giants go head-to-head tonight at MetLife Stadium in the third preseason game of the summer, Connie knows that as the years have gone by, things have changed. The team's biggest rivalry has shifted from the Giants to the Dolphins to the Patriots.
“Most people nowadays don’t think history goes before 1980. Back then everybody was a Giants fan or a Jets fan, but now there are a lot of people that, depending on if you are winning, they like one team or another or they like both teams. I find that impossible to do, just because of the way that I was brought up and what we went through back then. The feelings are too deep for me. It’s just no question. There’s just no way I could do that.”
Carberg is presently in the process of working on a book with author Elisabeth Meinecke, outlining her one-of-a-kind journey with the Jets, due to be released within the upcoming year. To find out more now and to see pictures of a young Joe Namath, check out her website, conniescouts.com, here.
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