Vince Papale played with the Philadelphia Eagles for three seasons in the late 70s. However, it is not his statistics or number of touchdowns that makes his story so unique. Rather it’s the fact that he was plucked from obscurity when new Eagles coach Dick Vermeil held an open tryout for the team. Papale was the only person that made the team from that open try-out. It is this feat that truly makes him unique; so unique that Walt Disney Pictures has made a film chronicling Papale’s experience. Mark Wahlberg plays the 30-year -old teacher in the film.
The journey from Eagles team captain (a position that his teammates voted him during his sophomore year) to the big screen started with a four and a half minute video on ESPN to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film “Rocky”.
“I have always been called the real life Rocky,” Papale explained when The Quad met up with him in his hotel room in Philadelphia.
Part of what convinced Papale on selling his life away to be made into a film was that the producers had made two of his favorite sports films, “The Rookie” and Miracle.” So he knew his story would be in good hands.
“I was so excited to have the chance to be involved with them and with Disney,” said Papale.
Papale says that the film is “tremendously accurate,” though he admits there were a few things he wishes were done differently in the movie. But a creative license to compress the timeline and other movies prevented that. Papale said that some things that he has experienced have been portrayed in other movies and it would feel copied if it was done in “Invincible” as well.
“They were done in other movies,” Papale said as to why some aspects of the story were changed in the film version. He added with a laugh, “My life mirrored other movies.”
One thing that was not changed in the film was how coldly his teammates welcomed Papale to the team. He adds that there was friction at first.
“[The other players] were protecting their interests and turf,” Papale explaining. It was from sheer hard work that Papale won over. He knew he was accepted after being invited to his first team party at Guy Morris’ house.
Papale, who now resides locally in Cherry Hill, N.J., and works for the Sallie Mae Foundation. Wahlberg and Papale will be doing public service announcements this Fall stressing the important of getting an education. The campaign slogan is “The more you learn, the more you earn.”
But “Invinsible” has not given Papale the acting bug, though both of his children – ages nine and 12 – have a yearning for showbiz now. He has one more small acting gig lined up before he retires from Hollywood and it’s a role he should be pretty good as: a football coach.