May 5 marks the birthdays of two Packers of note. Travis Jervey was a loose cannon for the 1996 Super Bowl champs, who earned a Pro Bowl trip for his fiery play as a kicking teams gunner. Of more significance was Hall of Famer Tony Canadeo, who continued to serve the Packers for decades after his playing career ended, first as a broadcaster, then as a member of the team’s Executive Committee.
As a player, Canadeo wasn’t particularly big or fast or elusive, but he was an all-around football player who got the job done. He could, run, pass, block, catch the ball, return kicks and play defense. He held the Packers’ career rushing mark from 1950 until 1962 when Jim Taylor surpassed him. He led the team in rushing five times and became just the third man in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season in 1949.
Canadeo was from Chicago but attended Gonzaga University where he became known as the “Gray Ghost of Gonzaga” due to his prematurely gray hair. Curly Lambeau drafted him in the ninth round in 1941 as a tailback for Curly’s version of the single wing offense, the Notre Dame Box. At tailback, the 5’11” 190-pound Canadeo was a double threat to run or pass and led the team in both rushing and passing yards in 1943.
Tony went into the service in 1944 and missed all of the next two seasons, aside from three games in 1944, when he was on leave for the birth of his son. When Lambeau finally switched to the T formation in 1947, Canadeo was the strength of the offense at left halfback. Unfortunately, the team declined each year so that Tony’s 1,000-yard year of 1949 was on a 2-10 team that got Lambeau fired.
As a part-time player in his thirties under new coach Gene Ronzani, Canadeo’s rushing average dipped below three yards per carry in the 1950s. He retired after the 1952 season, and the team retired his number 3 jersey (although kicker Ben Agajanian wore the number for a few games in 1961.)
Canadeo still ranks fourth in team annals for rushing yards. Although his total of 4,197 yards is little more than half of the totals of Ahman Green and Jim Taylor, when you add in his 579 receiving yards, 2,249 return yards and 1,642 passing yards, his total offense of 8,667 yards gets closer to Green’s 11,244 and Taylor’s 9,907 total offense yardage.
(adapted from Green Bay Gold)
All Canadeo custom cards are colorized.