Athletic-Minded Traveler’s Blog delves into all things active and healthy. Here you can find recipes, training advice, “best of” lists, travel tips, yoga insight and more.

You are here

Fact or Fiction: Vince Papale and Invincible

We rented and watched an entertaining movie this weekend, Invincible; a football flick based on the story of former Philadelphia Eagle, Vince Papale. It's an inspirational, feel good movie portraying how an inexperienced 30-year old athlete overcame significant odds to make the 1976 Philly NFL franchise.

I'm always curious after watching a "based on a true story" movie, how much truth there really was on the screen? You know Hollywood execs love to insert love stories and embellishments to make the film more emotionally involved. Here's the truth about Vince Papale's motivating past versus Disney's movie version (the same studio that produced a similar "feel good" sports movie entitled The Rookie):

1. Bigger in Person - Papale is played by 5'8" 170 lbs. Mark Wahlberg who obviously bulked up for the movie, but still looks tiny when standing next to the NFL-sized guys on the field. In reality, Papale wasn't such a tiny David up against the NFL Goliaths; he was 6'2" and 185 lbs.

Visit our site to find all original content on the best places to stay, work out, eat and play in 100+ destinations.

2. Suburb not City Boy ; Papale grew up in Glenolden, a blue collar Philadelphia suburb located about 12 miles away from his urban movie neighborhood of South Philly.

3. First Wife Friction ; Papale's first wife really did leave him and leave a note that exclaimed, "You will never amount to anything." However, the split up actually occurred in 1971, 5 years prior to the events portrayed in the movie.

4. Desperate but not Downtrodden ; Papale was not laid off from his teaching job. In 1974, he quit to tryout for a professional football team, the Philadelphia Bell, in the newly formed World Football League. Also, he did not work as a bartender until after a 2 year stint with the Philadelphia Bell.

5. Football Pro ; the movie paints Papale as a guy whose only football experience prior to trying out for the Eagles was in sandlot bar leagues and in high school. In reality, Papale also played two years of professional football for the World League Philadelphia Bell as a WR prior to trying out for the Eagles.

6. Invited to Tryout ; Papale didn't just show up to the open tryouts after learning about it from a television broadcast as the movie implies. He and a few other Philadelphia Bell players received an invitation to the tryout from Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil after the World Football League folded in 1976. And, he needed no encouragement from his buddies. He always desperately wanted to play for the Eagles.

7. Fast Man ; Papale really was quick. He did run a 4.5/40-yard dash in the tryout.

8. Making the Cut ; Coach Dick Vermeil did not give Papale the good news in the Veteran's Stadium parking lot next to Vince's broken down car. He called Papale into his office and told him he could come to training camp (as you would expect).

9. On the Field ; Papale played for three seasons and was forced to retire due to a shoulder injury in 1979. He caught one pass in 1977 as a wide receiver, but spent the rest of his professional career on special teams. It is true that he forced a fumble during a punt in his first home game, BUT he did not score a touchdown. NFL rules at that time actually forbid a muffed punt from being advanced. That scene was a huge Hollywood embellishment. In truth, after recovering the ball, the Eagles offensive team scored a touchdown on the ensuing series.

10. Love story ; Of course, a big studio movie needs a love story to make it complete, so Papale is shown to meet his current wife, Janet, during his Eagles quest. Actually, Papale didn't meet Janet until 1991, fifteen years after he played his first season for the Eagles.

Wordpress category: 



I didn't know Vince but he

I didn't know Vince but he was 3 years behind me in High School at Interboro. At that time the H.S. was located on the border of Norwood (where I grew up) and Glenolden. Interboro H.S. is now located in Prospect Park, PA. This is about 6 miles south from the Philadelphia Airport on I-95. Vince played for the World Foot League in Philly and it was owned wholly, or partially, by John Bosoco(sp) who also attended Interboro with Vince. So Vince and John most likely knew each other.
I also understand that Vince was a bartender in Norwood on Winona Ave.
I used to live on Winona Ave when living in Norwood, PA in the 50's and 60's. I still liked the movie even though it was played out in Phily instead of Glenolden or Norwood. Did Vince (Mark W.) eat a Philly cheesesteak in this movie or a hoagie?

Although I enjoyed the movie,

Although I enjoyed the movie, I enjoyed more the bonus on the DVD which is the story of how the movie was made and actually has Mr. Papale speaking along with the producers etc.

I think as his life in reality, the movie is a tribute to the making of his dream come true, that takes a lot of dedication and focus. KUDOS.

The Bar Maxamillians was in

The Bar Maxamillians was in Prospect Park, not South Philadelphia

I have met Vince and he is

I have met Vince and he is one on the nicest, most personable guys you could ever meet. He's a class act. The story Invincible, is just that a story. A damn good one regardless of how the story is told. Papale must have had a lot of raw talent to play pro football without any real coaching or college pedigree. I give the guy a lot of credit. To then write his story and for it to become a movie, well,, maybe that is the real story.

I was a neighbor of Vince

I was a neighbor of Vince when he was with the Eagles. He was married to Sandy and adopted her son (Skip) who was a start Little League SS and pitcher for a team I coached (we won the championship). Skip starred in HS & went on to play for Temple.

A couple of interesting facts when I visited Vince in his house:
1. He had a crumpled up letter framed on the wall from the Penn Relays who rejected his application to participate. He threw it away at first, but then decided to use it as inspiration (thus, on the wall in his office).
2. He told me, "They're going to make a movie of my life". I saw a Georg Michael interview of Vince when George stated, "I bet you never thought they would make a movie about you."

He was a good guy and an inspirational player for all Philadelphia & South Jersey.

My husband and I try to watch

My husband and I try to watch Invincible each time it comes on. We are in the mindset that first of all it's a movie for our entertainment. The fact that some of it is based on a story about Mr. Papale just makes it more hopeful.
We love all our sports movies. Mystery, Alaska, Remember the Titans, Moneyball, The Natural, For the love of the Game, 62, Wimbeldon, Rudy, and so on. But, to this story line. Mark Wahlberg made you think anything it is possible when you have a dream and you work hard. We understand it's Mr. Papale's life's passion. However, it came through loud and clear. It was totally entertaining.We don't usually pick apart the facts when it's based on real persons life. I'll say this, most everything we watch on television is based on some part truth. Ideas come from somewhere and are not always fictional.
But, we do understand the inclination to compare facts about movies based on people's lives. Our son and daughter do this after we've watched something based on real people or true story films.It always makes for an entertaining conversation in our house. Lol!

I just got around to watching

I just got around to watching it on TBS, which is notorious for cutting flicks to fit the time slot, so I came here to see what the real story was. I suspected that he must have had some time in the semis, and WFL cred makes sense too. Still a greatly inspiring story. I played a few season in the semis with former NFL guys, and the level of skill difference, even amongst the guys that never get past the first cut, is simply astounding. We had an RB that was a scrub in the WFL, and he was the best in our whole league.

In the movie when Vince makes

In the movie when Vince makes the cut they all go back to Max's bar for a celebration. Pete lifts Vince and in doing so spills a drink all over a guy standing behind. Not one word said or punch thrown. At that point the show lost all credibility for me.... lol

If you watch the clip of the

If you watch the clip of the muffed punt, you should see that the guy next to Papale was hit by the ball coming down just before the Blocker hits the punt returner. I don't even think Papale pushed the player into the punt returner, but did a nice job of guiding him into the punt returner. I do not think Papale actually touched the punt returner. I give him credit for a nice special teams play and recovery of the muff.

Just watched it on the DVD format.

Absolutely,,, I was an extra

Absolutely,,, I was an extra in the tryout scene, & regardless of all that melarky, I met both Walberg & Papale during the shoot & just wanted to say what a super nice , easy to talk to,friendly guy,Papale is,,,also Tony Luke jr got got the cameo shot by agreeing to supply lunches for all the extras the entire 4 days it took to film the "tryout scene", thanks for lunch Tony!


Add new comment