Skip to the content

The New York Giants’ Most Influential Coach Lives on Alvernia’s Campus

by Sarah Mies, Alvernia University

The New York Giants’ Most Influential Coach Lives on Alvernia’s Campus

Sister Carol Ann Nawracaj, a Bernadine Franciscan Sister who lives in the Mother House  on Alvernia University’s campus, has been an honorary coach for New York Giants since 1981. In the 1960s, Sister Carol Ann attended Mount Alvernia High School and was in the last graduating class before it was turned into a college. Here, she became a Bernadine Franciscan Sister, which is something she wanted to do since she was a young child. Later, she decided to become a teacher and went to Fairfield University. In 1974, The New York Giants were holding training camp at her university. This is where she met the team and started going to the games. “I knew nothing about football except it was a sport” she said. She began attending home games and cheering for the Giants. Then, something amazing happened, “Coach Perkins found out that all the games I attended, they won” said Sister Carol Ann.

Sister Carol Ann with Ray Perkins, Former Head coach of the New York Giants

In 1981, Coach Perkins was hiring a defensive coordinator. Sister Carol Ann, now knowing the game of football, created her own application and applied for the position. In response to this application, he made her an honorary coach.

Sister would give talks to the team before games. She used an overhead projector to create demonstrations about teamwork. One day, she asked to see the playbook the players were holding. Once flipping through the book, she discovered it wasn’t as fun as she wanted it to be. “So”, she said, “I created an actual playbook for them.” She created a book filled with fun activities for the players to do from connect the dots with the players numbers to word searches with the whole roster’s names. She also created a Pray Book for them as well. In this book, she found 90 verses of scripture and connected them with different situations that can happen during a football game.

Although, this was not her only talent that she shared with the team. Sister Carol Ann is also a very talented magician. “I like to make people laugh” she said. She loves using her magic to make people happy and bring joy to their days. Often, she would perform magic for the team and connect every trick with some inspiration for them to take with them as they played. She even performed magic at Lawrence Taylor’s Hall of Fame induction.

The year when Sister Carol Ann became a coach was the first time in 18 years that the Giants went to the playoffs. Ray Perkins flew her out to the game and listed her as a coach at the hotel. When she arrived, she went to the front desk and told them she was with the Giants. “I thought for sure they were going to call security and say, ‘There is some crazy nun here’” she said, “But, they were laughing and they said ‘Coach Perkins has been here about six times he wanted to see if you were here yet.’” The Giants won that game, but lost the next one, which Sister did not attend.

In 1983, Ray Perkins left the Giants to coach at The University of Alabama. He decided to make sister Carol Ann an honorary coach there as well, so he did not lose his good luck charm. Bill Parcells became the new head coach of the Giants, when he arrived, he renewed Sister’s contract as honorary coach.

At the beginning of the 1986 season, Sister Carol Ann decided to make the theme of the season a rainbow. After every game they won, she added another piece to a big rainbow she created for them. She kept adding more and more to the rainbow because the Giants had a very successful season and made it to the Superbowl. So, Sister Carol Ann got to attend Superbowl XXI.

Sister Carol Ann and former Giants’ Quarterback, Eli Manning

After the first half of Superbowl XXI, the Giants were losing; but then the halftime show came out. The performers formed the shape of a rainbow on the field. Sister Carol Ann said, “I saw this rainbow as a sign of hope from God.” The Giants came back in the second half and won Superbowl XXI. Afterwards, the players wanted to know how Sister Carol Ann knew the performers at halftime were going to form a rainbow, since that was her theme for this season. She told them she had no idea, everyone was astounded. She was recognized for her divine contribution to the team. “[Phil] Simms and I were both MVPs,” she said, “He was the most valuable player, and I was the most valuable prayer.” This was just one of five Superbowls she attended.

Sister Carol Ann’s life goes far beyond football. She is ambitious and creative. Growing up, she not only wanted to be nun, but also a teacher, an artist, and an entertainer. “I became everything I wanted to be and more,” she said, “I didn’t plan any of this, but God is a God of surprises.” Along with being a Bernadine sister and a coach, she also was successful in being a teacher, as well as a principal. She also became an artist and illustrated a cookbook and Christmas cards. Her dreams of becoming an entertainer also came true. She didn’t just preform magic for the Giants, but she performed with David Copperfield, for Paul Newman, and on Entertainment Tonight. On top of all of this, she still found the time to write two books along with Monica Rich Kosann. These books have beautiful photography from Kosann that Sister Carol Ann matched Bible verses to and also added little stories.