John Veneri’s Place In Football Trivia

John Veneri picks up yards for UH in a game Nov. 28, 1992. Star-Advertiser / Dennis Oda photo

John Veneri picks up yards for UH in a game Nov. 28, 1992. Star-Advertiser / Dennis Oda photo

Only a few years ago, my old TV partner and former University of Hawaii football star John Veneri made quite a name for himself with his “Go, Johnny, Go” segments on KHON Channel 2. Veneri has moved off the air and into management as KHON’s production manager these days, so his onthe-go time is spent as a dad.

John and wife Apriyle are the proud parents of Alyssa, 14, Julianne, 12, and Keoni, 10. Alyssa plays soccer and runs track, Julianne plays club soccer, and Keoni is a football and baseball player.

“I was thinking about it the other day when I was driving to Waipio for a game and snacks, and then hurrying to Kahala and dropping off snacks there, and then running to another game someplace else – I was going like crazy,” he says, laughing.

All the Veneri kids are cheered on enthusiastically by their dad, who keeps his broadcasting bug going by serving as football color analyst on ESPN1420. The man who gave his energy to “Go, Johnny, Go” is also the answer to two of college football’s most unique trivia questions – not one, but two!

The first question with Hawaii slotback John Veneri as the answer is:

“Who scored the final points in major college football’s last tie game?”

College football switched to an overtime format in the mid 1990s, thus doing away with ties. It turns out Hawaii and Missouri played the last tie game before overtime started, in late November 1994 – 32-32 at Aloha Stadium.

“I remember I had scored a touchdown early and we were up, but they came back on us and I thought my good game was going down the drain,” Veneri recalls.

Missouri’s comeback seemed complete when the Tigers intercepted a pass with about a minute left, and returned it for a touch-down to take a 32-24 lead. All seemed lost when former backup John Hao was inserted at quarterback, and many Hawaii fans streamed toward the exit.

“It was the last minute of the game, and we had a long way to go, but we chipped away down the field quickly,” Veneri remembers. “I remember catching a pass and making a big gain, but I couldn’t get out of bounds. When I went down, I played like I was hurt (thus stopping the clock).”When the trainer came out, he said, ‘Stay down.'”

As the final frantic seconds played out, with the ‘Bows in need of eight points to tie, the crowd that stayed was in a frenzy.

The Veneri family: Julianne, Alyssa, John, Keoni and Apriyle. Photo courtesy Veneri family

The Veneri family: Julianne, Alyssa, John, Keoni and Apriyle. Photo courtesy Veneri family

“We called ‘Trips left,'” Veneri recalls of the trio of receivers on the left side of the formation. “I was able to get between the line-backers and the safety, and John Hao threw a perfect pass.”

The touchdown pulled Hawaii within two.

“For the two-pointer, the play was supposed to come to me on the right side. I was able to peel inside my (defender), but the ball was thrown a little behind me. I went up and grabbed it, and was able to come down as the (defender) tried to wrestle it away. I saw Kelly McGill and Kendall Goo celebrating, and then I saw the official raise his hands.”

Two points for Hawaii, 32-32.

The Hawaii radio broadcaster for that game was yours truly. I remember exclaiming something like, “Never has a tie felt so good!”

The second trivia answer came two years earlier.

“I was also in on the last Fumblerooski ever run,” Veneri says.

The “Fumblerooski” was a trick play where the ball is cleverly placed between a lineman’s legs while the rest of the team runs a mis-direction without the ball – and the offensive line-man plays coy until eventually waltzing down the field untouched for the score.

“(Offensive coordinator) Paul Johnson called it in the 1992 Holiday Bowl,” Veneri says. “But we were late on the time clock and (quarterback) Michael Carter was too hurried to notify the officials beforehand. The trick play worked perfectly, and Peter Pale ran for a touchdown, but it was called back due to a penalty (for non-notification). After that year, they outlawed it.”

Two decades later, John Veneri keeps going strong, working hard at the television and radio stations and running his kids to sports events all over the island – and there’s nothing trivial about that.