Tony Canadeo, known as the Gray Ghost of Gonzaga, wore #3 for the Packers and was with the organization for more than 60 years.

Countdown to Green Bay Packers football: Tony Canadeo and Charles Mathys

With 2 days left until the start of the NFL season, our countdown to the big day continues.

Thursday, Sept. 4, is the day when the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle to take on the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.  

Over the  course of the next 2 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … and for today we take a look number 2.

Yesterday we looked at #4, Brett Favre, the ‘Ol Gunslinger who has been up, down and up again in the eyes of the Packers organization and its fans.

With the recent love fest where it was announced that Favre would be inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and have his number retired in 2015, Favre is back on the franchise’s radar and in the good graces of most fans; we’re glad for that.

But today we get to move on to numbers 3 and 2, Tony Canadeo and Charles Mathys.

Canadeo, #3, spent 61 years of his life affiliated with the Packers organization; you might call him Mr. Packer, if there were such a role.

Canadeo, #3, spent 61 years of his life affiliated with the Packers organization; you might call him Mr. Packer, if there were such a role. But his devotion to the franchise family was enough for the Packers to retire his number.

Mathys, in 1922, signed with the Packers, the same year that the franchise became a member of the newly-formed National Football League. A quarterback who was the epitome of town football, being a home town boy, Mathys played for the Packers from 1922-26, an era whose quarterbacks played the position much differently.

Both Canadeo and Mathys played in the early years of the game and the franchise, leaving their marks in different ways. Both had lifelong ties to the organization and assisted in the team and league’s growth in popularity through difficult times in American history, the 1920s through the 1950s.

They could and should be seen as trailblazers of professional football.

John Maxymuk, the author of “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” tells us about the Canadeo and Mathys and their careers with the franchise:

 

Tony Canadeo

Tony Canadeo, #3, is a select member of a distinguished group of players who have had their numbers retired.

Tony Canadeo, #3, is a select member of a distinguished group of players who have had their numbers retired.

Tony Canadeo was born in Chicago in 1919, the same year the Packers began, and was still afloat with the team at the beginning of the new millennium. He put in more years of service in a variety of capacities than any other Packer. For over 60 years he was a player, broadcaster, member of the Board of Directors, member of the Executive Committee (including serving three years as treasurer nd seven as vice president in the 1980s), and finally board member emeritus.

As befitting such a mature eminence of the gridiron, his hair went gray at the age of 16 and Tony became known as the “Gray Ghost of Gonzaga” when he attended that Washington University in the late 1930s.

The Packers picked him in the seventh round of the 1941 draft, and he became an immediate contributor to the team on both offense and defense.

He would play both ways for most of his career. On defense he was a hard-tackling, tough defensive back.

On offense he was the very definition of an all-purpose back, accumulating over 8,000 all-purpose yards in the course of his career. As a runner, he gained 4,197 yards and scored 26 touchdowns; as a receiver he caught 69 passes for 579 yards and five touchdowns; as a punt returner  he averaged 11.2 yards on 46 returns for 513 yards; as a kickoff returner he averaged 23.1 yards on 75 returns for 1,736 yards; as a passer he threw for 1,642 yards and 16 touchdowns.

He also punted the ball 45 times for a 37.1 yard average and intercepted nine passes. When Cecil Isbell retired after 1942, Tony took on the role of primary passer for the Packers offense in 1943 and led the team to a 7-2-1 record. He mads the All League team that year for the first time.

He was a loyal foot soldier both for Green Bay and for his country. He went into the military in 1944 and didn’t return to the NFL until 1946.

When he returned from the war, the good times were gone in Green Bay. Don Hutson had just retired, and Lambeau’s passing game would never recover. In the post war years, Curly would increasingly emphasize the run and Tony became the team’s feature back. In 1949, Canadeo became the third man to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season although he finished second in the NFL that year to Steve Van Buren of the Eagles.

Of course, Van Buren’s Eagles were the champs while Tony’s Packers finished 2-10 at the bottom of the league. Gaining 1,052 yards for the last place 1949 Packers was a significant accomplishment, and he made All League for the second time.

When Lambeau was pushed out in 1950, Canadeo was 31 years old. Under new coach Gene Ronzani he would only be a part-time player for the last three years of his career. Tony’s final home game in Green Bay was declared Tony Canadeo Day. Before the game, Tony received gifts and had his number retired, the second Packer to receive that honor. Don Hutson had his retired in 1951 …

In 1955, Canadeo joined the team’s Board of Directors … two years later Tony joined play-by-play man Ray Scott to announce televised broadcasts of Packers games during the Lombardi era. As a fellow Jesuit alumnus, he became fast, good friends with Coach Lombardi. He was elected to the Executive Committee in 1958 and remained a member of that guiding body through 1993. In 1972, he pushed to hire Joe Paterno as coach, but was outvoted and the job went to Dan Devine.

In 1972 he became ill and nearly died, but was saved by a kidney transplant from his oldest son Bob. He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1973. The next year he reached a personal pinnacle by being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. For six decades on and off the field Tony Canadeo embodied the competitive spirit and honest dignity of the Packers.

Green Bay Packers players who have worn #3 over the past 50 years:

From To AV
Ben Agajanian 1961 1961 0
Tony Canadeo 1950 1952 0

 

Charles Mathys

Charles Mathys was emblematic of his team and his time. The Packers evolved from a local town team to join the American Professional Football Association in 1921.

Green Bay was expelled from the league at the end of the year for using college players, and when they rejoined the league under new ownership in 1922 the AFPA had become the NFL. In that same year, Mathys signed on with Green Bay.

He was a local boy like so many of the early Packers and had attended Green Bay’s West High School before starting his college career at nearby Ripon. He transferred to the University of Indiana where he was a star quarterback for the Hoosiers. After graduation in 1921, he joined the Hammond Pros of the AFPA and played against the Packers in a 14-7 loss in November.

Mathys, who only weighed between 150-165 pounds, quarterbacked the Packers for five years through 1926, before retiring and being replaced by Red Dunn.

In his Packers career, he ran for one touchdown, caught four touchdown passes, and threw 11, including a team-high seven in 1925. After his retirement, he remained in his home town for the rest of his life and served on the Packers Board of Directors for many years. He was elected to the Packers Hall of Fame in 1977 and died in 1983.

The Packers at the time ran a variation of the Notre Dame box offense where the quarterback stood about a yard behind the center and then shifted behind the right guard. Mathys would call signals; he often would receive the ball from a center snap and distribute it.

He was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1977; He was inducted alongside Bart Starr.

One of the things he is most remembered for is being the quarterback on the first Packers team to ever beat the Chicago Bears (Sept. 27, 1925). Charlie threw a last-second touchdown pass to win the game 14-10.

Since 1950, there has been one player to wear #2 for the Green Bay Packers, Mason Crosby; Aaron Brooks was drafted by the Packers in 1999 and was distributed #2, but he played all of his career with the Saints:

 

  From To AV
Mason Crosby 2007 2013 15
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