Vince Papale, the inspiration behind the movie Invincible, spoke of his rise from a 30-year old Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holder to Philadelphia Eagles football player August 30 in the Robert Brown Theatre, as he kicked off Cowley College’s “Find the Noise” speaker series.
The 60-year old Papale looked and acted as if he could put on the jersey and play for the Eagles this season. In his first public appearance since the release of the film “Invincible”, Papale captivated the crowd during his hour-long presentation. He then took time to sign autographs during a reception held in the Wright Room.
Papale’s story began in 1976, while working as a schoolteacher and a part-time bartender. Philadelphia Eagles’ then-rookie head coach Dick Vermeil held a press conference and invited locals, including Papale, who was a former track star, to a workout. The rest is history.
Papale showed up at the workout and ran a world-class time of 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. Coach Vermeil offered Papale a contract on the spot, but the 30-year-old walk-on still had to make the team. Papale overcame tremendous odds to become the oldest rookie in the history of the NFL.
Papale recalled fondly being informed by Vermeil that he had made the team. “That was a validation of everybody telling me that I was too small, that I came from the projects, that my mother was a drug addict,” Papale said.
He eventually became a team captain and played in the NFL for four years. He was voted Man of the Year by the Eagles in 1978, for his many charitable activities and honored by the NFL. His never say die attitude became the inspiration for turning the Eagles into a Super Bowl team.
He spoke of how you have got to seize your opportunities, and referred to a comment Vermeil used to tell the team, “Opportunity is worth to a person exactly what their preparation enables them to make it”. He also told the audience three things they need to have in order to realize their potential. First is, have a game plan; second is, know your opponent; and third is, be the best you can be.
After retiring with the Eagles after the 1979 season he was a TV and Radio broadcaster for eight years. After that Papale entered the world of commercial mortgage banking, which lead to his present position as a Marketing Executive for Sallie Mae.
Papale has served as chairman or co-chairman for various associations including the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans, Spina Bifada Association, Multiple Sclerosis Society and the American Heart Association.
The positive attitude, determination, and work ethic Papale showed as an Eagles player was put to the test five years ago when he found out he had cancer. He is now a cancer survivor and is a national spokesperson for colorectal cancer prevention.“Treat every day as if it is the most important day, because it might be your last,” Papale said. “Be the best you can be physically, educationally, spiritually, and emotionally. If you do that you will fulfill the potential you have to get to that next level.”