When seeing the headline “Venuto Joins Big Red Football Staff,” I did a double-take, unsure if I had stumbled on some “throwback” website. I recalled when Jay Venuto joined the Big Red staff in 1990 – after a great run as a quarterback at Wake Forest, which earned him the 1979 A.C.C. Player of the Year award – and then I realized that the new story was not about Jay, but about his son, Chase, the latest addition to the Cornell football coaching staff.
I also realized how grateful I am to the Venuto family for providing me with so much material over the years. Jay’s illustrious collegiate career (and brief NFL career) was in the rear-view mirror by the time he settled in Ithaca, but a few years later, his sons Garrett and Chase were lighting up the scoreboards as youth quarterbacks. Both would run the offense for the Ithaca High Little Red, and Garrett took his shot at the Big Time, getting some playing time at Penn State.
Chase graduated from Ithaca High in 2012 and took his game to Brockport. After that four-year stint, he took advantage of a rare opportunity to play in Europe, in the top tier of American Football International. “I played for the United Titans Angels in the Italian Football League in Pesaro, Italy in 2017, and in 2018, I played for the Torino Giaguari (Jaguars), and my dad came over to be the head coach,” Chase told me. “One of the guys who played at Brockport when I was a freshman signed a contract to play in Nice, France, and he introduced me to football in Europe. I knew I wasn’t going to the NFL, and I wanted to get into coaching, so it was a great opportunity.”
Playing in Italy did not interfere with Venuto’s plans on this side of the pond, as the European season is in the spring, freeing Chase up to make football his year-round passion. Like many young coaches, he has already bounced around some, and after a stint as an assistant coach at Western New England University and Ithaca College, he went to Division III Heidelberg University.
Venuto started his new position on Oct. 7, and I asked him how difficult it was to step in three games into the season. He said, “I was in my second year as a Graduate Assistant at Heidelberg working on my Master’s degree, and the (Cornell) position (as Assistant to the Head Coach) opened up. Alex Peffley was in the position, and when he moved to Director of Football Operations, Coach Archer reached out to me. We were in a bye week at Heidelberg, and they understood that it was an opportunity too good to pass up.”
He said, “It has been quite the experience so far. It doesn’t necessarily feel like ‘catching up.’ I have been an assistant coach for three or four seasons now, and I understand how the routine works – what the Monday and Tuesday tasks are – and the biggest difference is just mapping out my schedule here.”
I asked Chase if he was ready for the continued “bouncing around” that so many young coaches are required to do while climbing the ladder. He said, “I know that my dad coached at Wake Forest, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Pitt and Cornell, but on the other hand, my uncle was at Villanova for 25 years, so I have seen both sides.” I asked him if Garrett had any plans to coach football, and he said, “He studied Risk Management at Penn State, and he’s in the finance world now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him being open-minded if an opportunity opened up in the sports world.”
I asked Chase if he felt prepared for this next big step, and he sounded convincing when he said he did. He said, “My brother and I got a lot of our football knowledge from my dad, but much of our competitive nature comes from our mom.” (Garrett and Chase’s mom is local realtor Jill Burlington).
As we wrapped up our conversation, Chase thought back over his life and the role that football has played in it, and he seemed grateful to have had so many experiences under his belt while still in his mid-twenties. He said, “Ithaca High, Brockport, Western New England, Ithaca College, Heidelberg, two teams in Italy… I have seen a lot of playbooks.”