Tony Canadeo learned to play football on the sandlots of Chicago and then refined them at Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington. Tony did just about everything on the football field. He ran with the best of them, punted, returned kick-offs and punts and was a fine receiver and defensive back. Like Clarke Hinkle he was acknowledged as one of the fiercest competitors in the game. After Beattie Feathers (1,004 yards in 1934) and Steve Van Buren (1,146 in 1947) he became only the third back in history to run for over a thousand yards in a single season (1,052 in 1949).
In 1937 Tony and about six friends left Chicago in a 1927 Packard and headed 2,000 miles west to Spokane. They shipped all their luggage ahead and with a breakdown every 200 miles they used up a lot of oil.
There were ninety freshmen trying to make the team but in the intra-squad games Tony ran a punt back for a touchdown and also returned a kick-off to paydirt. After that his position was secure. In his senior year they beat Detroit University who were coached by Gus Dorais who was also friendly with Curly Lambeau. Tony scored two touchdowns in the game and Gus recommended him to Curly who drafted him in the 7th round frustrating Ray Flaherty of the Washington Redskins who had hoped to pick up Tony as a free agent. Ending up in Green Bay was a shock to Tony who also thought he would be picked up by the Redskins. As it turned out it was the luckiest thing that ever happened to him because he loved playing for the Packers and living in Wisconsin.
Tony had determination, courage and tenacity both on the football field and in his private life, undergoing kidney dialysis and eventually a kidney transplant from his son, Robert.
Greasy Neale, the former coach of the Philadelphia Eagles said of Tony, “he doesn’t have great speed, he is not tricky, but he is all heart."
I was honoured and privileged to meet Tony in 1990 and 1994 and we shared lunch at the Midway Hotel and watched team practice and his love of the Packers and his sense of humour made it a day to remember for me and Margaret. He played when the team was playing well and then later in his career through some tough years but his ability stands out like a shining light and his place in the annals of the National Football League is guaranteed. It is often said that you shouldn’t meet up with your heroes as you will be disappointed but my meeting with a Packer great exceeded every expectation, a real gentleman with a keen sense of humour.