Invincible – Philadelphia Eagles’ Vince Papale
Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg) is a Philadelphia born-and-raised guy who, like the city itself in the mid 1970’s, is struggling. The multitude of union strikes and factory closings have left Papale with little to no employment prospects. He is restricted to teaching high school two days a week and bartends at his friend Max’s bar to make ends meet. Similarly, the Philadelphia Eagles of the mid 1970’s were also struggling. Prior to the 1976 season, the Eagles made a change in head coach and hired Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinneer) to take over the helm and promises to make whatever changes are necessary in order to turn the Eagles back into a winning organization.
While bartending, Papale watches the local news and learns that the Philadelphia Eagles will be holding open tryouts. Papale’s friend Pete encourages Vince to attend the tryouts for a shot to become an Eagle. He listens, but shrugs it off as an impossibility and walks home. Vince arrives home to find his wife, Shannon, has left him because of his inability to make enough money to support her. She leaves a note that says “Vince, you will never go anywhere. You will never make any money. You will never make a name for yourself.” The following night while working at the bar, he meets Janet, Max’s cousin that recently moved to Philadelphia from New York. After work, Papale has a conversation with his friend Tommy, who is struggling with hard times facing unemployment himself, about the tryouts. Tommy make one final attempt to encourage Vince to take advantage of this opportunity.
Contributing Author: Bob Shifko
Invincible – Real Life, Reel Differences
- It is true that Vince never played college football, however, Vince was a great athlete which was never depicted in the movie. He was a great track and field athlete who was good enough to garner a scholarship to St. Joseph’s University. Furthermore, Vince was only 5’7″ and 160 lbs when he graduated from high school and not recruited for football. By the time he graduated from college, Vince had grown to 6’2″ and 185 lbs, but because St. Josephs didn’t have a football team, he was not able to play.
- He did play one year of semi-pro football in 1974 as well as one year of pro football for the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League, where he excelled as a wide receiver and special teams player until the league folded in October of 1975.
- In reality, Vince’s friends did not have to convince him to attend open tryouts. He wanted to. Furthermore, he didn’t just show up as depicted in the film. He and a few other Philadelphia Bell players were invited to the open tryouts
- Vince was not the down on his luck, penniless guy as depicted in the film. He was a beloved teacher and coach for six years and was planning on returning to this career path if the Eagles dream had not become a reality.
- The nasty note left by Vince’s first wife was real and did serve as motivation for Vince thereafter. However, it occurred in 1971, five years before the open tryouts opportunity with the Philadelphia Eagles
- The “bar league”, 7-on-7 football games did occur in real life and in fact, helped Vince tremendously during tryouts where the Eagles ran 7-on-7 drills.
- In the movie, Vince and Janet met while working at Max’s bar one night. In reality, the two didn’t meet until Vince had finished playing football. They were married in 1993.
Where Are They Now?
Vince Papale played for the Philadelphia Eagles for three seasons from 1976-1978. During this time, he recorded two fumble recoveries and one fifteen yard reception. A shoulder injury ended his career in 1979. After his career ended, he worked as a TV and radio broadcaster for 8 years before become
Currently, Papale is the Regional Director of Marketing and Senior Account Executive for Higher-Education Marketing at Sallie Mae. He is also a motivational speaker and holds the title of national spokesperson for colorectal cancer.
He resides in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, with his wife Janet and two children, Gabriella and Vinny, and remains a diehard Philadelphia Eagles football fan. He is also currently listed as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Philadelphia Chapter of the NFL Alumni Association. His website is vincepapale.com, he has a community page on Facebook that is regularly updated, a LinkedIn account, and his Twitter handle is @83Invincible.
The inspiration for Invincible came from an ESPN segment produced in 2002 as part of the 25th anniversary tribute to the Rocky, another movie about a Philadelphia native-turned-hero.
Dick Vermeil coached the Philadelphia Eagles from 1976 through the 1982 season. He led the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 1980, a game they lost to the Oakland Raiders 27-10. After he left the Eagles, Vermeil worked as a sports commentator for CBS and ABC for the next 15 years. In 1997, Vermeil was hired as the head coach for the St. Louis Rams. After two subpar seasons, he led St. Louis to a 13-3 record in 1999 and beat the Tennessee Titans 23-16 in Super Bowl XXXIV. Vermeil was chosen as Coach of the Year. After the Super Bowl victory, Vermeil resigned as coach of the Rams.
In 2001, Vermeil came out of retirement again to be the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. For the next five season, the Chiefs were inconsistent with good offenses and mediocre defenses, however, they scratched out two playoff appearances in the five seasons under Vermeil. Dick Vermeil resigned from the Kansas City Chiefs at the end of the 2005 season. Overall, Vermeil has a 120-109 win-loss record and took his teams to six playoffs, winning one NFC Championship (in 1980 with the Philadelphia Eagles) and one Super Bowl (in 1999 with the St Louis Rams).
His new passion is wine, as he is now partnered with OnTheEdge Winery (which appears to have been re-branded as Vermeil Wines).