Meet Alabama’s oldest-living quarterback

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Spoiler alert: She's a woman

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Down in Montgomery, you’ll find a very special football fanatic. On any given fall Saturday, you’ll find her seated in front of the television, clad in her corsage, crimson sweater and white pants.

Carastro pictured as a student at The University of Alabama

Her name is Marie Fikes Carastro, and she’s an Alabama fan through and through. 

“I was born in Tuscaloosa. I got my [bachelor’s degree] and my master’s from Alabama,” Carastro said. “Roll Tide!”

In the classroom, she studied dietetics. On campus, she was the Theta Chi “Dream Girl,” the organization’s sweetheart. But, when it came to having fun, there was football.

Asked who her favorite Alabama football players were, she mentioned two quarterbacks, Harry Gilmer and Joe Namath.

“Well that may be because that’s the position I played on the girls’ team,” said Carastro. “We played in what they called the ‘Honey Bowl.’” 

Even the most die-hard of Alabama football fans probably have not heard of this mostly forgotten event.

The Honey Bowl is now but a tiny footnote tucked away in the annals of Alabama history where two all-women teams, the Bumblebees and the Hummingbirds, clashed on the gridiron.

Carastro (left) of the Bumblebees chases down a Hummingbird ball carrier in the 1948 Honey Bowl

Carastro played quarterback for the Bumblebees, and can be seen pictured in the image above chasing down the ball carrier.

Ken Gaddy, director of the Paul W. Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa, was able to explain the game in more detail.

“The Honey Bowl was one of those fundraiser games where coeds on campus played,” said Gaddy. “I think they did it from 1946 through 1948 to raise money for charities.” 

Photos of the game itself can be found in the 1948 Corolla, the University of Alabama’s yearbook (see below).

But also in the Bryant Museum’s possession is an original Honey Bowl program from the 1948 clash. The program shows that the game was played November 4, 1948 at Denny Stadium, known today as Bryant-Denny Stadium. 

Also in the program are the rosters for the two teams. Carastro, then using her maiden name Fikes, is listed under the Bumblebees squad next to her height, weight, and, cheekily, her phone number. 

While all that remains of the Honey Bowl are some artifacts and black and white photos, Carastro remembers every colorful detail.

“Well it was a bunch of women on the field who are very competitive,” explained Carastro. “And the football coaches at that time who were Frank Thomas and Red Drew had all the players on the Alabama team come observe this game. They were supposed to be our cheerleaders.”  

And proudly cheering in the stands was former Crimson Tide quarterback Clell Hobson.

Clell Hobson pictured in uniform (Courtesy of the Bear Bryant Museum)

“It was amazing to me how some of those girls could block and tackle like the guys did,” said Hobson. “And some of them could have played for us if they [were allowed to].”

But as Hobson will gladly tell you, Carastro is no ordinary Alabama quarterback.

Backed up by recognition in the Alabama Alumni Magazine and a resolution penned by Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, she holds the distinction of being the oldest living former quarterback to have played for an Alabama team. She even received a handwritten note from former Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson.

But for Carastro, the fun fact is just that: fun. 

“To me, it’s just the way of life,” said Carastro. “You just do these things not to be special or anything but because it’s fun and you do it.”

Nonetheless, she’s hopeful that her story will encourage others to pursue their interests.

“If there’s something that you want to do, hey, go for it,” said Carastro. “You may just be having fun but you may be making history, who knows!”

Or maybe, inspiring others.

Before we sat down to chat with Carastro at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery, an unknown woman entered the restaurant area where the interview was taking place. She just had to meet Marie, awestruck by how the former quarterback paved the way for women generations later.

Lt. Col. Ali Masson of the U.S. Army pictured in uniform

That woman is Lt. Col. Ali Masson with the United States Army.

“I simply would not have the opportunities I do today without women like Marie paving the way,” said Masson. “I love Alabama football — and hope to get to a game. Tickets are hard to come by — so meeting her just made my whole month!”

The exchange touched Carastro to the core.

“I’m just a little flabbergasted I guess that what I’ve done means so much — historically and otherwise as well for women,” said Carastro.

Today, the Honey Bowl is long gone. But, nevertheless, Carastro chooses to spend her fall Saturdays with her family, cheering on — that other — Alabama football team.

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