Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Canadeo attended Charles P. Steinmetz Academic Centre, formerly known as Steinmetz High School, a public four-year high school located in Chicago's Belmont Cragin neighborhood. It is a part of the Chicago Public Schools District 299 and was named for the handicapped German-American mathematician and electrical engineer Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1865–1923).
Canadeo played college football at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he was first known as the "Gray Ghost of Gonzaga," due to his prematurely graying hair. The university dropped the football program in 1941, so he was the last Zag to play pro football. He also boxed for the Bulldogs during his senior year, and was named team captain.
Canadeo was selected by the Packers in the ninth round (77th overall) of the 1941 NFL draft. During the war, he first served in the U.S. Navy, then joined the U.S. Army and missed most of the 1944 season and all of 1945; he returned in 1946 and became Green Bay's primary ball carrier. Canadeo was the first Packer to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and the third player ever in the NFL to accomplish this feat. He rushed for 1,052 yards in 1949, but the Packers struggled to a 2–10 (.167) record. In addition to his accomplishments as a running back, Canadeo also recorded nine career interceptions on defense and served as the team's punter.
After his playing career, Canadeo continued his association with the Packers as a television analyst and member of the organization's executive committee. He remained listed as one of the directors emeritus.
He played a small part in helping Jack Vainisi reassure Vince Lombardi in 1959 that the transition from New York City, where Lombardi served as an assistant coach for the New York Giants, to Green Bay would be comfortable for his family.