Green Bay Packers legendary Hall of Fame offensive back Tony Canadeo was the Packers' greatest rusher in franchise history by the time of his retirement in 1952. A true dual-threat offensive back, Canadeo starred as a passer and rusher in his 11-year career with the Packers.
Chicago-born, Canadeo attended Steinmetz High School in Chicago before playing college football at Gonzaga University. While playing for the Bulldogs, Canadeo earned the nickname the “Gray Ghost of Gonzaga”, because of his speed and his prematurely graying hair.
In 1939, Canadeo was named a Little All-American at Gonzaga. Before the 1941 season, the 5’11, 190-pound Canadeo was drafted by the Packers in the 9th round (77th overall) in the NFL Draft. In his first two NFL seasons, Canadeo backed up Cecil Isbell and Clarke Hinkle before becoming a starter in 1943.
In 1943, Canadeo was third in the NFL in pass completions (56), passing yards (875), passing touchdowns (9), passer rating (51), passing yards per game, passing yards per attempt (6.8), passing yards per completion (15.6), and completion percentage (43%). Canadeo was named first-team All-NFL. Canadeo also finished fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (489) and third in rushing yards per attempt (5.2).
In 1944, Canadeo played in only three games as the Packers won the NFL title. After missing the 1945 season while serving for the United States Army in World War II, Canadeo played primarily tailback for the Packers. In 1948, Canadeo was an All-NFL selection, rushing for under 50 yards per game (5th in NFL) and 4.8 yards per attempt (3rd).
In 1949, Canadeo was again named All-NFL after rushing for a career-best 87.7 yards per game, and averaging 5.1 yards per rushing attempt. Canadeo totaled 1,052 rushing yards in the 1949 season, becoming the third-back in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season.
In his career, Canadeo rushed for 4,197 yards, caught 69 passes for 579 receiving yards, and scored 31 touchdowns (26 rushing, 5 receiving). As a quarterback, Canadeo threw 16 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions for 1,642 passing yards. Canadeo was named to the NFL’s All-1940’s team, and was a three-time All-Pro selection (1943, 1948, 1949).
Immediately following his retirement, the Packers retired his number three jersey, the second Packer retired by the team, and one of five numbers retired by the Packers today.
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- Green Bay Packers Legends of the Past: Robert “Cal” Hubbard
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