Posted by Mike Wendt on May 30, 2011 Jump To Comments
I want to start off by saying thank you to all the men and women who are currently serving or have served in our armed forces. We are forever in you debt.
Seventy years ago, America was at the cusp of its second World War, and for many athletes the prospect of joining the armed forces was something they felt compelled to do. They were making a modest wage playing football, but they felt like they were needed elsewhere, so many football players traded in their football helmets for army helmets.
One of those men was Tony Canadeo.
Today, fans inside Lambeau Field can see Canadeo’s name listed among the greats in the ring of honor, and his #3 jersey has long since been retired by the Packers. Per the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, Canadeo played offense and defense, ran with the ball, threw passes, caught passes, returned punts and kickoffs, punted and intercepted passes. In 11 years, he rushed for 4,197 yards, passed for 1,642 yards, recorded 69 receptions for 579 yards, gained 513 yards on punt returns, 1,736 on kickoff returns, scored 186 points and intercepted nine passes. To say he was a versatile player is an understatement.
Canadeo was one of the best players on the Packers from 1941-1952, but he felt his services were needed elsewhere. In 1944, the Packers finished 8-2 and defeated the New York Giants to win the NFL Championship, but Canadeo was putting his life on the line on a different type of battleground. During the 1944 season, Canadeo was sent to Fort Bliss in Texas to undergo basic training, Later that year, he was shipped over to Europe to fight for the Allies.
Canadeo only missed one season while serving over seas, but that was the only season during his tenure that the Packers would win the NFL Championship. Following his return to the Packers, the team struggled to win games, and many felt that the team records in the late 1940′s would have been much worse had it not been for Canadeo. Former Green Bay Press-Gazette editor Art Daley remembers Canadeo going through the ’49 season without much help from anyone else. “The poor guy, they only won two games that year,” Daley said. “It was Canadeo right and Canadeo left. He was the first real Hall of Famer for the Packers, and he did it during a losing period.”
After retiring following the 1952 season, Canadeo continued to work with the Packers. He began as a color commentator, then became a member of the board of directors. Later he was elected to be on the Packers’ executive committee, and in 1982 he was elected vice president. He passed away in 2003.
While many Packers fans will say their blood runs green and gold, it was clear that Canadeo’s was a different color. Red, white, and blue.
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