‘Bonanza’: One Star Turned Down the Denver Broncos To Pursue Acting Career in New York

by Charles Craighill
(Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

If you watched Bonanza, you probably remember Candy Canaday, the ranch foreman. David Canary, the Candy Canaday actor, appeared in 93 episodes of the show between 1967 and 1973. He also appeared on classic western shows such as Gunsmoke and crime shows like Hawaii Five-0. The Hollywood star enjoyed a long and successful career from the mid-1960s all the way through the turn of the millennium.

What you might not know about the Bonanza star, however, is that he could have chosen an alternate career path. Before he graduated in 1956, David Canary starred on the Massillon Washington High School football team. He started on both offense and defense as an end. This awarded him a football scholarship to the University of Cincinnati.

At Cincinnati, he was a letterman for three consecutive years from 1957 to 1959. He also received the John Please award for the team’s best lineman in both his junior and senior years. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music in 1960, the Denver Broncos drafted the future Bonanza star in the inaugural AFL Draft.

Bonanza Star Jokes About Football Skills

However, his love for the performing arts deterred him from pursuing football beyond college. David Canary ended up training as a singer throughout college, so he decided to follow the safer career path. And who can blame him? Just seven years later, his training landed him a major role on the classic show, Bonanza.

David Canary even joked about ditching his football career for acting in a 2004 interview. “I thought they were out of their minds,” the Bonanza star joked. “I was 172 pounds, I wasn’t very fast, and I couldn’t catch a pass. They called me stone fingers.”

Another Famous Actor Who Skipped a Football Career for Acting

The Bonanza star was not the famous Hollywood actor to forego a football career to get into the acting game. For instance, the all-time great western actor John Wayne started his career as a football player. Unfortunately, a career-ending body boarding injury cost him his football scholarship at the University of Southern California.