Tony Golab was a midcentury football star and one of the Windsor/Essex Sports Hall of Fame’s seven original inductees. Golab is a Grey Cup champion and World War II veteran, and for a time he was adjudged to be Canada’s top male athlete. Known as the “Golden Boy” of Canadian football, he played as a fullback, flying wing, and halfback, most notably for the Ottawa Rough Riders.
Anthony Charles Golab was born in Windsor, on January 17, 1919. In his younger days, Golab was a standout multisport star at Kennedy Collegiate Institute. He won WOSSA track-and-field gold in the discus en route to silver medals in that event and the shot put at the 1937 WSSA meet. On the football field, Golab led the Clippers to back-to-back WSSA and WOSSA championships and a 19-game undefeated streak that spanned 1936 and 1937. He was a First-Team All-City selection in both years.
The following year, Golab stepped up to the Ontario Rugby Football Union’s Sarnia Imperials. He spent the bulk of his career with the Ottawa Rough Riders, which would eventually join the Canadian Football League as a founding member. Golab enjoyed two tours of duty in the capital: from 1939 to 1941 and 1945 to 1951.
Golab’s Rough Riders won the 1940 Grey Cup, defeating Toronto Balmy Beach, and reached three further finals in 1939, 1941, and 1948, losing the first two to Winnipeg and the latter to Calgary. During Golab’s stint with the team, the Rough Riders won the Big Four regular season championship seven times. All in all, Golab was a five-time Big Four All-Star: as a running back in 1939, 1940, and 1945, and as a flying wing in 1947 and 1948.
Golab’s personal career arguably peaked in 1941, the year in which he was awarded the Jeff Russel Memorial Trophy as the MVP of Canada’s “Big Four” football league and the Lionel Conacher Award for Canada’s best male athlete, full stop.
Lamentably, Golab’s upward career trajectory was interrupted at its apex as the world descended into war. During World War II, he engaged in a decidedly different type of battle as a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot. In the last of several combat encounters, Golab was gunned down over Monte Cassino, a rocky hill 130 kilometres southeast of Rome. Although he suffered substantial injuries to his arms and legs, Golab convalesced in time to return to gridiron battle with the Rough Riders following the war.
Following his playing career, Golab coached the Hamilton Panthers of the ORFU in 1952 and 53. Later, during a four-year stint as coach of the Royal Military College, Golab won three conference championships. He also served as Vice President of the Atlantic Conference in 1958 and 1959.
Golab was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1964 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1975, but a higher honour awaited. In 1986, Golab was awarded the Order of Canada by Governor-General Jeanne Sauvé.