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Veneri brothers with the Ching field
Mark, left, John Veneri

Homecoming week at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is a little more special these days for the Veneri brothers. John is the UH football play-by-play announcer for ESPN Honolulu, and his younger brother, Mark, is the color analyst. It’s the second year the pair have shared the broadcast booth, and each game is meaningful for the duo and the entire Veneri ʻohana.

U H Hilo baseball player
Mark Veneri

“For our family, everyone is proud and everyone talks about how cool it is that two brothers get to work together and travel together and do everything together,” Mark said prior to UH’s 2023 homecoming game against San Jose State on October 28. “Homecoming week is always special and for John, I know for him doing this for such a long time. I can close my eyes and picture Aloha Stadium with 50,000 screaming fans—I was one of them. It’s a privilege to come out here and play football. It’s a privilege to be in the broadcast booth and it’s an honor to be part of this university and represent it well.”

John said, “For me, personally, it’s awesome because he is such a good broadcaster himself. He had done high school play-by-play for so long and was on our sidelines for seven years and so to have him now in the booth with me. He’s learning about what it takes to travel, but he’s getting to see places that he’s never seen, places that I’ve played. We’re going to places together for the first time.”

U H Manoa football player
John Veneri

John has been part of the radio broadcasts for UH football since 1996, a majority as color analyst with Bobby Curran as the play-by-play announcer.

“I’ve always studied Bobby. I’ve studied Kanoa (Leahey), Jim (Leahey) and Felipe (Ojastro), and as far back as when I did a high school game with Larry Beil,” John said. “I’ve had a lot of good people around me and it’s helped mold who I want to be, not so much being another one of them or being another Bobby, but it’s allowed me to voice the games the way I want to do it. I’ve tried to pick some of the best things from everybody to mold it into the way I want to do it.”

Mark, who also coaches youth football, calls himself a “film room junkie” and that much of his call is based off of what he sees in the film room.

John said that his goal was to call the games so that their grandmother could understand.

“Not everybody is a huge football fan. Not everybody understands offense and defense and special teams, but if you can deliver that in a way that people will become fans not just of the broadcast but of the game itself and the players and coaches, then I’ve made a difference,” John said.

The pair planned to dedicate last season’s broadcast to their grandmother, however, sadly, just before their first broadcast of the season, their grandmother passed away.

“I’m sure she’s looking down on us really proud,” Mark said.

‘Go Johnny Go’

U H Manoa football player
John Veneri

John is a UH Mānoa and Rainbow Warrior football alumnus. The Kamehameha Schools graduate was part of the 11-2 UH football team that secured the program’s first bowl victory in the 1992 Holiday Bowl over Illinois. That team, coached by the late Bob Wagner, also went 6-2 in the Western Athletic Conference to share its first conference title.

“Coach Wags was such a special man. I held him in such high regard—I think all of us did,” John said. “He was a good guy. He was a really good coach, but he had good coaches around him. It took a lot of work leading up to that 1992 season, guys worked really hard in the offseason and the spring and it’s what led up to that. We were peaking at the time that we needed to peak that year, but a lot of people don’t remember the struggles from ‘90 and ‘91 to get to ‘92.”

After graduating from UH Mānoa, he worked on the opposite spectrum, covering UH football and other athletics teams as a sports anchor for KHON2 from 1995 to 2010. During that time, he launched a series called “Go Johnny Go,” which, of course, featured the 1959 song by Chuck Berry, when he took on different challenges. John stayed at KHON2 to work in production and marketing, before taking on his current role as co-host of Living808 and Sam Choy’s in the Kitchen.

I really like the fact that I don’t have to be somebody else—I am exactly who I am.
—John Veneri

“I believe those two shows have allowed me to be more me and have shown my personality. A lot of people ask my wife, ‘is he the same way in person that he is on the show?’ And she says ‘yeah, he’s exactly like that,’” John said. “I really like the fact that I don’t have to be somebody else—I am exactly who I am.”

Hit it out of the park, Mark

After graduating from Punahou School, Mark hopped over to Hawaiʻi Island and played baseball at UH Hilo under legendary head coach Joey Estrella. He earned his degree in communications and began working in marketing and business development. Mark also followed in his brother’s footsteps calling play-by-play and color for Hawaiʻi high school football.

U H Hilo baseball player
Mark Veneri

“Joey is one of the most standup human beings you’ll ever meet. We still talk to him, still keep in contact with him, just like how Coach Wags was a mentor for John, he actually stayed in touch with our whole family,” Mark said. “These coaches become like family outside of just sports. The opportunity to be a student-athlete and the opportunity to be under their wings—they were able to really mentor us into positive individuals.”

Mark added, “Joey has always been huge about community service and giving back. So for me, I coach youth football. I try to give back to these kids, these underprivileged kids and really give them avenues and opportunities that they don’t have.”

I tell people that I’m living my dream as we speak.
— Mark Veneri

Mark grew up watching UH football and became a fan since he was 5 years old. Pair that up with his interest in broadcast journalism, he calls it his “dream.”

“That was my major and something that I always wanted to do, like I knew that I wanted to be in the broadcast booth. Being around Bobby Curran, Lad Panis, the late Robert Kekaula, and of course, Bob Hogue and Uncle Jim Leahey, those were really tremendous role models. Learning from them and I constantly picked their brains about what I can do to improve. I tell people that I’m living my dream as we speak. This was something that I wanted to do as a kid was be in the broadcast booth for University of Hawaiʻi football.”

—By Marc Arakaki

Veneri brothers in the broadcast box

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