Vince Papale is a name many have heard of, even though he never played college football, nor did he get drafted to the NFL. The reason we all know the name is that his story is an incredible journey of a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan given the opportunity to try out for his beloved team.
He ultimately made the team and then 30 years later Disney made a movie about Vince Papale, called Invincible, with Mark Wahlberg playing Vince. You will hear the story from Vince’s perspective in this interview, and to learn more about his story, see below for some details.
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Vince was born on February 9, 1946, at a time the Eagles were pretty good. However, Vince must have brought luck to the Philly area, because the team went to the next 3 championships, winning the title in 1948 and 1949. His dad was a big Eagles fan, as were most of the fathers in the Philly area. This would end up transferring over to Vince for the rest of his life.
High School and College Days
Vince attended Interboro High School, which is about 6 miles south of Philadelphia. He was a “Buccaneer” and excelled at track, but he earned varsity letters in basketball, football, and track. In the interview, we hear about how he was considered too small to play football by many, and he believed that may have been one reason Dick Vermeil latched onto him. They both had that in common.
He did end up playing a year, but track was his meal ticket. Vince was the fastest kid at Interboro and pole vaulting was his best event. This helped him on Father’s Day in 1964. St. Joseph College gave Vince’s father a gift by offering his son a full ride scholarship for track.
Here’s the kicker. They didn’t have a kicker, because they didn’t have a football team. That’s why you’ll see how Vince made it into the NFL after never playing a down of college football. Vince graduated in 1968 with a business degree and then he decided to go back to his Alma mater, Interboro. There Vince was a teacher and a coach. Then in 1976, things took a turn for the best.
Vince’s Big Shot
This is where the Invincible movie picks up. Coach Dick Vermeil was just hired by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976 to turn around an abysmal team. One of the first things this crazy guy did was open up the tryouts to all-comers, and this was where the Vince Papale name was born, and Mark Wahlberg would end up playing the character.
1976 Rookie Year
The rookie year for Vince had to be a whirlwind. He started the year down on his luck working multiple jobs. Football was still in his blood. In the movie, he played for Max’s Bar, which actually did happen. The movie did not discuss his World Football League career, where he played for the Philadelphia Bell, but the league didn’t last too long. If you want to hear more about the World Football League, here’s an episode from one of the owners – Upton Bell.
Vince Papale ended up getting credit for 4 years with the Eagles, which was enough to earn him credit for his pension with the NFL. He references this in his book, Last Laugh. The movie recalls some of the top moments for Vince in his first year, and in the interview, he reminds us the game against the Cowboys really wasn’t as bad as they portrayed it. At the end of the movie, it cuts to the real life character and photos from his career. Thirty years later, they made a movie about Vince Papale, and it was called Invincible.