The New York Jets’ Nearly Overlooked Defensive Star Mark Gastineau Before the NFL’s First Female Scout Stepped In

Today, New York Jets fans know Mark Gastineau as the talented and sometimes troubled all-time sack leader for the franchise and the REAL single-season sack record holder. However, before the NFL’s first-ever female scout stepped in, he was just a borderline NFL draft pick from a tiny college football program. 

That all changed when the Jets’ Connie Carberg got the assignment to pick an injury-replacement D-lineman for the 1979 Senior Bowl. After Gastineau’s impressive career, all Gang Green fans owe her a debt of gratitude. 

Connie Carberg started as a Jets receptionist and eventually became the NFL’s first female scout

Connie Carberg history with the New York football franchise goes back to a time before the “Jets” name existed. Her father, Dr. Cal Nicholas, was the team doctor for the New York Titans when Carberg was young, according to Sports Illustrated

The future scout left New York to attend college at Ohio State. It was there that legendary Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes took her under his wing, taught her more about her passion — the game of football — and encouraged her to pursue her football dreams. 

After college, she took a job with the Jets as a receptionist and worked as a secretary for the scouting department before the Jets officially made her the NFL’s first-ever female scout. 

It was in this capacity that the Jets asked her to pick a replacement defensive lineman for the 1979 Senior Bowl. 

Carberg gave Gastineau a spot in the Senior Bowl

The Jets’ coaching staff coached the Senior Bowl ahead of the 1979 draft. When defensive linemen Mike Stensrud from Iowa State bowed out with an injury, the Jets director of player personnel called Carberg back in New York and told her to find a replacement. 

After narrowing the field down to five candidates, Carberg told SI she then made a fateful decision: 

I decided to call them – no cell phones, so not as easy to get in touch. One was faster but small school. Most would be drafted in the fourth through seventh round. All were nice but one was loaded with enthusiasm and passion and ready to jump on plane immediately- it was a guy named Mark Gastineau. I didn’t know he’d be great but loved his attitude and his speed on film.

Gastineau, from the tiny East Central Oklahoma State program, did jump on a plane and played so well he was named the best D-lineman at the Senior Bowl. He also so thoroughly impressed the Jets staff that they couldn’t wait until the fourth round or later to select him. 

They used the No. 41 pick in the second round to grab the pass rusher.  

Mark Gastineau was one of the most feared defensive linemen in NFL history

New York Jets DE Mark Gastineau on the field during the New York Jets vs. Denver Borocos on October 20 , 1986.at Giants Stadium.
Mark Gastineau | Photo by Tom Berg/Getty Images

Gastineau never stopped impressing the New York Jets and the team’s fans over the course of his decade-long NFL career. He became the most famous face of the iconic Jets defensive line of the early 1980s, known as The New York Sack Exchange. 

The defensive end was a quarterback’s worst nightmare and became one of the NFL’s first “sack” specialists when the league started recording the stat in 1982. He is currently the Jets franchise all-time leader in this category with 74.0 official career sacks. However, other sources give him 107.5 sacks when adding up the numbers from his first three seasons.  

He also held the record for most sacks in a single season with 22.0 in 1984, until the New York Giants’ Michael Strahan broke that record in 2002. The validity of Strahan’s record is up for debate as his final sack came against his friend Brett Favre who looks like he took a dive on the play. 

Record of no record, Gastineau is still one of the best pure pass rushers in league history. He may have never even got the chance, though, if the New York Jets’ Connie Carberg didn’t call him and offer him the slot in the Senior Bowl.  

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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