Green Bay Packer Players of the Past Who Are Both Football and War Heroes

Steven FinchCorrespondent IApril 12, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 19: A general view of the opening kick-off during a game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on September 19, 2004 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Throughout history, there have been many football heroes to play for the Green Bay Packers, and among those players, many of them have become war heroes as well.

While they were not voluntary recruits like the late safety Pat Tillman, they still answered the call they had received by the United States.

In this article, I will profile five of these players.

Tony Canadeo, RB, 1941-52

Canadeo was a standout running back for the now defunct University of Gonzaga football team.

If you were to look up anything on this player, everyone referenced his nickname as "the Gray Ghost." This is said to be due to his hair turning white rather prematurely.

In his 11-year career with the Packers, Canadeo rushed for a total 4,197 yards. That number doesn’t sound like much compared to the players of late, but he was a valuable player under coach Curly Lambeau nonetheless.

Canadeo missed the 1945 NFL Championship game due to his military service with the Army, in World War II. But after returning to the states, Canadeo became the third back in NFL history to gain more than 1,000 yards in one season.

When Canadeo retired from football in 1952, only Steve Van Buren and Marion Motley had more rushing yards than him.

His number has since been retired by the Green Bay Packers.

Paul Hornung RB, S, K 1957-62; 64'-66'

Hornung played his college football for the University of Notre Dame.

After being a back up full back his sophomore year, he excelled as a halfback and safety in his junior season.

He finished fourth in the nation with 1,215 yards and six touchdowns.

Drafted in 1957 by the Green bay Packers, Hornung played a total of seven seasons for the team.

Interrupted in '63, Hornung was called up by the Army, though he was awarded weekend passes to play football on Sundays for the Packers. This is said to be because of Vince Lombardi's friendship with President John F. Kennedy.

Clarke Hinkle FB, LB, K 1932-41

Hinkle was once said to be "Without a doubt, the greatest defensive back I've ever coached," by Carl Snavely, coach of the Bucknell football team.

Hinkle led Bucknell to an undefeated season in 1931.

Signing with the Packers in 1932, he played mostly fullback for the team in his ten-year career. He was a two-time champion in both '36 and '39.

Hinkle finished his career with 3,860 yards and 35 touchdowns.

After his football playing days, Hinkle was also a highly distinguished officer in the U.S. Army.

He ended his career as the NFL’s all time leading rusher, until the great Steve Van Buren subsequently replaced him.

Howard "Smiley" Johnson G 1939-41

Johnson was a star at the University of Georgia, playing both fullback and guard.

He then went on to play only two seasons with the Green Bay Packers at the guard position.

His career was cut short after volunteering for the Marines following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

He is the only player in Packer history to have been killed in combat.

You can compare him to the late Pat Tillman, not in the sense that he gave up a big contract, but because players played for a lot less money in those days.

He has a memorial at the University of Georgia, and was elected into the Packer Hall of Fame, even though he doesn't hold any records in the NFL.

Harold "Hal" Van Every RB, DB 1940-41

In 1940, Van Every lead the Green Bay Packers in interceptions with three, one of which was returned 91 yards for a touchdown.

Most notably however, Van Every gave up his football career to fight for his country in World War II.

His plane was shot down over Germany, injuring his back and becoming a prisoner of war, also known as a POW.

As a Green Bay Packer fan and a veteran, my hats go off to these few, brave men. There are many more players that have gone on to serve their country instead of play football.

Let's make sure we recognize these men, and not just Pat Tillman.


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