Vince Papale’s incredible journey from fan to NFL team captain is the inspiration for the 2006 Disney film Invincible. Papale was a high school star athlete, but his focus was always on track and field. Growing up in Philadelphia he was a homegrown Eagles fan and even played one season on his high school’s football team. In college at St. Joseph University, Papale was a champion pole-vaulter, attending the school on a track and field scholarship.
After graduation, Papale dabbled in semi-pro football, but it took eight years for him to catch his big break. In 1976, the Eagles were facing another losing season and Coach Dick Vermeil had an idea. He organized an open tryout, hoping an unknown would be the solution to solve the Eagles’ losing streak. The substitute teacher and part-time bartender surprised everyone by making the team and becoming the oldest NFL rookie to play without previous college football experience. He played on the Eagles special teams for three seasons, recording two fumble recoveries and one 15-yard reception. Papale’s emergence on the team offered a new hope and ultimately turned around the Eagles’ luck for the following seasons.
In 1978, Papale was voted special teams captain and “Man of the Year” by his teammates. However, the following year he was sidelined by a shoulder injury, which ultimately led to his retirement early that season.
From the lectern, Papale shares his incredible story and inspires audiences to overcome adversity to achieve the impossible.