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Gene's Blog: In first career start, Goaley rises to the occasion

Gene's Blog: In first career start, Goaley rises to the occasion
The Tommie-Johnnie football rivalry has had more than 80 meetings. It's regularly played before large crowds, usually in the open air at Collegeville's Clemens Stadium or St. Paul's O'Shaughnessy Stadium. 
But recent games were held before 37,000-plus spectators at Target Field in Minneapolis in 2017, and a sold-out gathering of 19,500 plus at Allianz Field in the Saintly City in 2019.
St. Thomas will compete in a new conference in 2021. In what will be the last T-J football game with both as MIAC members, the 2020 contest is tentatively set to be played Nov. 7 in U.S. Bank Stadium, again in downtown Minneapolis.
You might have missed it, but the latest St. Thomas and St. John's football competition where a score was kept was actually held in June before an audience of... three. It came via a closed Zoom video.
St. Thomas rising junior offensive lineman Sam Goaley jumped at the chance when he was invited to represent Tommie Football earlier this month in a trivia game produced by Fox Sports North.
Goaley and St. John's football player Dom Nussmeier took to Zoom for a head-to-head Tommie-Johnnie contest of approximately a dozen sports trivia questions from FSN reporter Bobbie Bohlig. (The segment is now available to watch on YouTube and was planned to air on Fox Sports North.)
Going into the taping, neither player knew exactly what to expect, but they quickly learned that all the questions would cover the Tommie-Johnnie football rivalry.
No Pressure?
A St. Thomas Academy graduate, Goaley has several friends who attend both St. Thomas and St. John's, including numerous past and current Tommie and Johnnie football players.
He first saw this as another fun way to celebrate the rivalry that features two of NCAA Division III's most successful football programs. But on the day of the Zoom call, his competitive gears kicked in. He was only partly kidding when he said he felt a game-day like adrenaline.
"I was behind after the first two questions, and I kept thinking that I didn't want to have to call Coach (Glenn) Caruso and tell him that I lost in a sports competition with our rival school," said Goaley. "I might have had to go into hiding if I lost."
Spoiler alert: Goaley rallied for a close victory (watch the show at link below).
An Economics major and Dean's List honoree, Goaley has a passion for trivia and quiz-bowl competitions in general. When he wasn't busy with school work sports for the Cadets, he competed with STA's accomplished quiz bowl teams.
"I swam until my sophomore year at STA when I dropped the sport to focus on winter conditioning for football, and my other sport, throwing shot put and discus," Goaley explained. "I also wanted to be able to travel with the quiz bowl team every weekend in the winter. We went to nationals for quiz bowl in my junior and senior years, and I was captain as a senior."
Goaley's quiz bowl experience wasn't widely known outside his football circle, thus he wasn't the first person asked to represent the Tommies in this contest. Recent graduate Elijah Rice, a double major and a CoSIDA Academic All-America, was invited due with his extensive experience representing St. Thomas. But when asked if he was available and interested, Elijah explained that trivia wasn't his strongest suit. Rice instead recommended Goaley, a guy from his O-Line position group with a strong entry on his resume: an audition to the College Jeopardy show.
Last November, when Tommie Football traveled to St. Olaf to play the Oles, Goaley wasn't part of that week's 60-player travel group. So he took advantage of that opportunity to drive to St. Louis for a regional audition for the College Jeopardy competition.
After being among 18,000 collegians who tried out online for the 31st-annual college quiz tournament -- contestants answered a timed set of 50 questions -- Goaley was among less than two percent of those hopefuls that made that first cutdown to 300. They were assigned to regional sites in Philadelphia, St. Louis and Los Angeles. 
In a St. Louis hotel meeting room, Goaley and his peers took another timed 50-question test, played a simulated Jeopardy game, and interviewed with several show producers.
"I spent a lot of time studying old Jeopardy questions online to be ready," Goaley said. "They have such a broad range of questions, which is a huge challenge. I also think in addition to knowing general trivia, they also wanted a diverse group of personalities for the show, so I tried to do what I could to stand out from the crowd."
Goaley continued a hectic weekend by driving the nine hours back home that night so he would be ready for his Sunday morning football video session and workout. (College teams get one day off per week in season, so football teams usually take Monday off and use Sunday as a practice/recovery day from the Saturday competition with some weight lifting and video sessions).
This year's Jeopardy dream for Goaley ended when the field of 300 from regional auditions was trimmed to 15 national finalists and one alternate, and he wasn't selected. The finalists traveled to Los Angeles in February to tape the quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds. 
The eventual College Jeopardy winner and runner-up both came out of the St. Louis audition, including champion Nibir Sarma of the University of Minnesota, who came home with a $100,000 prize. Goaley recognized the new champion from his STA quiz-bowl days since Sarma was part of a strong team from Eden Prairie High.
Looking Ahead to Fall
Goaley echoed the disappointment of all students after the outbreak of Covid-19 last March. Health and safety took first priority, thus Covid-19 shut down in-person classes and campus activities. For Goaley, that meant no AARC weight training or conditioning with friends, and no gathering for spring practice with his teammates. 
"Working out by yourself is not the same," he said. "Now we're just looking forward to getting back to campus and being able to interact with teammates again."
Goaley landed a summer internship with Collins Aerospace and is doing it remotely from his South St. Paul home. He's looking to supplement his Econ major with a minor in Legal Studies as he said he might one day apply to law schools as part of his career path.
For now he's looking forward to his final two St. Thomas football seasons -- and hopefully a return to some sense of normal campus life. 
"I feel fortunate to be around so many good players and to be a part of the culture we have and Coach Caruso has built," he said.

Gene's Blog is a sports column penned by UST sports information director Gene McGivern. Gene is in his 26th season at St. Thomas and 32nd overall in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He blogs periodically on various topics regarding the Tommies, the MIAC and Division III sports.

If you have comments or questions, e-mail Gene at