Woman becomes NFL's first female full-time coach
Armed with notepads, pens and a keen eye for talent, Connie Carberg is still scouting football players.
She simply can't get enough of breaking down film. That's why the 64-year-old Carberg was in front of her television Jan. 23. She lives in Coconut Creek, Florida. She was watching the East-West Shrine Game and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
"I love it," Carberg said. "When draft time comes, I've got all my notes on every player."
Carberg was the first woman to serve as a scout for an NFL team. She worked with the New York Jets. That was back in the 1970s. She was excited this month when the Buffalo Bills hired Kathryn Smith as the league's first full-time female assistant coach.
"It caught me totally by surprise," Carberg told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "I just got really excited. I think it's a great opportunity for women."
Bills coach Rex Ryan promoted Smith. She is the team's special teams quality control coach. It is an entry-level, assistant position. But it's a path that a number of coaches have taken on their way to getting top jobs in the league.
The 30-year-old Smith worked for Ryan with the Jets since 2009. She was the team's player personnel assistant. She joined the coach in Buffalo after he was fired by New York. That was after the 2014 season. She was an administrative assistant for Buffalo's assistant coaches. She worked on various projects.
"The fact she has been around for a long time is important," Carberg said. "She has proven herself. It's not just something like, 'Let's just put a woman in there and let's make history.'"
As special teams quality control coach, Smith will deal with things such as charting and diagramming plays. She also will scout blocking schemes and tendencies of kickers and punters.
"To me, the best part of this is that Kathryn has a chance to just learn so much and ask questions. And pick up so many things," Carberg said.
Carberg served as a scout for the Jets from 1976-80. She broke a gender barrier in the NFL. She watched game films, traveled and scouted college players. She is credited with bringing attention to defensive end Mark Gastineau. He became one of the league's top pass rushers. He was drafted by the Jets in 1979. Gastineau invited Carberg to be his guest when he was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor. That was in 2012.
Carberg will be the subject of an upcoming book about her life in the NFL. She helped open the door for other women.
In 1986, the late Linda Bogdan was hired by the team as a full-time scout. She was the daughter of then-Bills owner Ralph Wilson.
Amy Trask was the Raiders' chief executive officer for owner Al Davis. That was from 1997 until 2013. The Jets promoted Jacqueline Davidson to director of football administration last summer. Dawn Aponte is the Miami Dolphins' executive vice president of football administration. Katie Blackburn is executive vice president for the Cincinnati Bengals. Jeanne Bonk is executive vice president and chief financial officer for the San Diego Chargers. And the San Francisco 49ers' Hannah Gordon is vice president of legal and government affairs. They are among a growing list of high-ranking women in football front offices.
Jen Welter became the NFL's first female position coach last summer. She worked as an intern for the Arizona Cardinals while coaching linebackers.
"I still believe it's going to take a little bit of time," Carberg said. "I think Jen Welter would make an ideal scout." Carberg believes more opportunities will open for women in the NFL. "It's just not looked upon as weird anymore."
Carberg's father is Dr. Calvin Nicholas. He was the Jets' internist. She was hired by New York coach Charley Winner in 1974. Her job was as a team receptionist. She became the scouting secretary before being sent on the road to watch and interview players.
She left her role after the 1980 season to focus on her family.
Despite being in such a male-dominated environment, Carberg said she never felt awkward or intimidated.
"My biggest boosters in the world were men," she said. "Maybe because I felt so comfortable doing what I did. You might get some resistance, like anything else. But this younger generation right now is used to having their moms working. And working in very high positions. I think the respect is there. I think it's a lot of easier for women now than it might have been back in the old days."
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is Kathryn Smith's new job a big deal?
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