invincible movie vince papale true story mark wahlberg

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Invincible (2006)
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks
based on the true story of Vince Papale, inspired by the 2002
NFL Films ESPN feature on his football achievement
Reel Face: Real Face:
Mark Wahlberg Invincible movie Mark Wahlberg

June 5, 1971
Birthplace: Dorchester, Massachusetts, USA
Vince Papale true story Vince Papale
9, 1946
Birthplace: Glenolden, Pennsylvania, USA
Greg Kinnear as Dick Vermeil Greg Kinnear

June 17, 1963
Birthplace: Logansport, Indiana, USA
Dick Vermeil Philadelphia Eagles Dick Vermeil
October 30, 1936
Birthplace: Calistoga, California, USA
Elizabeth Banks actress Elizabeth Banks

February 10, 1974
Birthplace: Pittsfield, Massachusetts, USA
Janet Cantwell (Janet Papale) Janet Cantwell
(Vince Papale's Wife)

"That summer I really did get involved as a wide receiver in nutcracker drills. I did sprint from one drill to the next. I knew the only way I was going to survive was if I made somebody notice me every day. Every time I got an opportunity, I performed. I did something." - Vince Papale

Questioning the Story:

Did Vince Papale really only play one year of high school football?
Papale track pole vaultYes. In his senior year of high school, Vince Papale was a letter winner for football, basketball, and track. He received a full track scholarship to St. Josephs College. At St. Josephs, Papale was the track team captain his senior year, and he also won the most outstanding athlete award.

Why didn't Vince Papale play football in college?
At age 18 when he graduated from high school, Vince Papale was only 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds. Colleges were not coming after him with football scholarships. Instead, he accepted a full track scholarship to St. Josephs. By the time he was ready to graduate from college, Papale had grown tremendously to 6-foot-2, 185 pounds. He never tried out for the football team in college because St. Josephs did not have a team.
-Tribune Review

Did Vince come from an athletic family?
Yes. Vince's parents were first-generation immigrants from England and Italy. His father and grandfather were pig farmers. His mother, Almira, had a stint as a professional baseball player in the 1930s. She became ill and was sick for much of Vince's childhood. "Until she was too sick to do anything much, I felt fabulous when I could win a race with her. She was an amazing athlete," Vince recalls. "I was the product of probably a pretty good gene pool."

Did Papale really play no organized football after high school, before earning a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles at the age of 30?
Papale Philadelphia BellAlthough the movie Invincible truthfully emphasizes that Vince Papale played no football on the college level, the movie fails to mention that Papale did play in the short lived World Football League (WFL) for two years starting in 1974. Making a little bit of money in the league as a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Bell, Papale eventually found himself in debt when the league folded in 1975. "You do some stupid things because the first time in your life you have some money," Papale says. "Then all of a sudden there you are: You don't have those bucks that are coming in all the time."

Did Vince really tend bar to make ends meet?
This is true, although it happened after his two year career with the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League. Before joining the Bell, Papale had been a beloved middle school business education teacher for the Interboro School District for six years from 1968 to 1974. Papale left teaching in the spring of 1974 to try out for the Bell.

Is the real Vince Papale the same height and weight as the actor who played him in the movie?
Vince Papale and Mark WahlbergNo. The actor who portrayed Papale in the film, Mark Wahlberg, is actually much smaller. Wahlberg is only 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, while the real Papale is 6-foot-2, 185 pounds. Despite their physical differences, Papale says of his big screen counterpart, "He plays me better than I do." And Papale should know, he was involved with the film from script to wardrobe to every last detail.

Did Vince Papale's first wife really leave him like in the film?
Yes. This is mostly true, and he did in fact use the nasty note she left him ("You'll never go anywhere, never make a name for yourself and never make any money") as motivation. But it happened in 1971, five years before the events of the film.
-Papale's Memoir

Did Papale really just happen to go to the 1976 open tryout on a whim?
No. The Philadelphia Eagles contacted Papale and invited him to the open tryout, along with a few other former Philadelphia Bell players. He did train strenuously. It is also true that the tryout attracted an odd assortment of characters, as then Eagles coach Dick Vermeil remembered in a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. "All kinds of people turned out (800 total). We had a doctor, guys with big bellies, kids right out of high school." As shown in the film, on the day of the tryout, Dick Vermeil did take note of Papale, especially Papale's ability to run a 40 yard dash in an impressive 4.5 seconds.

Was Papale really as reluctant to go to open tryouts as his character is in the film?
No. In the movie his buddies persistently beg him to go to the open tryout. Papale admits this was somewhat different in real life, "I always wanted to do it. My friends did goad me but I wanted to keep it quiet, I didn't want to be perceived as a buffoon."

Did Papale really play fierce games of "rough touch" football in Philadelphia's bar leagues?
Yes. Papale played rough touch football in the bar leagues for years, despite breaking his nose and some ribs, and getting a few teeth jarred loose. In Papale's words, the games were much more "rough" than "touch" (Herald News Online). In an interview, Papale said that an ambulance was always present at the bar league games, a detail that was left out of the movie.

In real life, when did Papale really meet his wife Janet?
The movie Invincible portrays Papale meeting his wife Janet during open tryouts for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976. In reality, Vince Papale didn't meet his wife Janet until years later, after his playing days. The real Janet and Vince were married in 1993.

I heard that Vince Papale's wife is an athlete too, is this true?
Yes. Vince Papale is married to the former Janet Cantwell, who was a member of the USA Word Gymnastics team. Janet has coached and taught gymnastics all over the world. Vince and Janet are the only married couple to have been both individually inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. They live in Cherry Hill, NJ with their two children Gabriella and Vincent Jr.

What made Dick Vermeil decide to give Vince a spot on the team?
"When it came down even between him and another receiver/special-teams player (at the final cut) we kept him because of his charisma, and his appeal to the South Philly fans where the stadium is, and then to his talent as well," says Dick Vermeil, who would a few years later win a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams. -Tribune Review

Did coach Dick Vermeil really find Vince out in the parking lot fixing his broken down car?
No. When Dick Vermeil told Vince that he had made the squad, it didn't take place in a parking lot. Instead, it happened in the locker room. Vince referred to such adjustments of the facts as "entertainment liberties."

What was Papale's NFL salary?
Vince Papale's first year salary as a Philadelphia Eagle was $21,000, which was almost double what his last teaching job had paid. In his final year with the Eagles, he made $45,000. -Tribune Review

What were Vince's NFL stats?
                |       Rushing        |      Receiving       |
| Year  TM |  G | Att  Yards   Y/A  TD | Rec  Yards   Y/R  TD |
| 1976 phi | 14 |   0      0   0.0   0 |   0      0   0.0   0 |
| 1977 phi | 14 |   0      0   0.0   0 |   1     15  15.0   0 |
| 1978 phi | 13 |   0      0   0.0   0 |   0      0   0.0   0 |
|  TOTAL   | 41 |   0      0   0.0   0 |   1     15  15.0   0 |

What was Papale's greatest memory of playing on the coverage team unit for the Philadelphia Eagles?
"Against the Giants (my rookie season) I was coming down the field so hard that I made two Giant players collide with the punt returner and he ended up fumbling the ball and I recovered it. Our offense would score a touchdown on the ensuing series and we defeated them, 20-7, giving Dick Vermeil his first win as an NFL coach," Papale recalls.

The movie Invincible shows Vince scoring a touchdown, but his stats displayed above seem to contradict this?
The filmmakers added Vince's touchdown for dramatic effect. In real life, he never scored a TD.

Why did Vince Papale leave the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL in 1979 after only four seasons?
Papale stopped playing professional football due to a shoulder injury in the 1979 preseason, which permanently ended his NFL career.

What has Vince Papale done since he left the NFL?
After spending three years playing professional football with the Philadelphia Eagles, Papale moved on from the NFL to become a TV and radio broadcaster, a job which he held for eight years. He then went into commercial mortgage banking, which led to his position as a Marketing Executive and Special Projects Director for Sallie Mae, the student financial aid company. Currently, he mainly works as a motivational speaker for education and the Sallie Mae Program. Papale speech video Watch Vince Papale as a Motivational Speaker

In addition to his various occupations, he has battled and beat colorectal cancer, a topic on which he also speaks and for which he holds the title of national spokesperson ( Papale has served as chairman or co-chairman for numerous associations, including the Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans, Spina Bifida Association, Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the American Heart Association. As a cancer survivor, he and his family also donate a lot of their time to the Eagle's Fly for Leukemia charity.

How does Vince Papale think his life would have turned out if he hadn't made the Philadelphia Eagles team?
"It would have turned out OK," says Papale. "I would have gone back to get my master's degree and gone onto high school counseling, and I would have been retiring right now."

How did the idea for the movie Invincible come into existence?
In November of 2002, NFL Films showed Vince's story on ESPN during Monday Night Football ( Vince Papale ESPN segment Watch the ESPN segment). It was part of a special to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the boxing movie Rocky. The four minute piece about Vince captured the attention of Hollywood, and soon a film was in the works.

Is Papale upset that it took so long to bring his story to the big screen?
Papale family with Mark WahlbergNo. "I'm glad it took 30 years because I can share it with a lot more people (including) my children and my beautiful wife. It couldn't be a better time," Papale said ( The picture at left shows Vince and his family with Mark Wahlberg, the actor who portrayed Vince on the big screen (click to enlarge).

What is the real Vince Papale's favorite scene from the movie Invincible?
Papale says his favorite scene from the movie is the one where he and his friends play rough-touch football in the mud. "It just showed the pure innocence and joy of playing," says Papale. "And to me, it was a bunch of guys who are over the hill, but they became kids again, and it just transcended time." -Tribune Review

Are there any major cameos in the movie?
No. "They (the filmmakers) didn't want anything to detract from the story or what was being told," says Papale. All the guys who are football players in the movie are arena league football players in real life. Vince Papale's children did have small cameos in the film. His 9-year-old son Vince Jr. is the boy who wears the number 83 jersey and runs in front of the car to retrieve a football as Mark Wahlberg drives by. His 12-year-old daughter can be seen in the film throwing a football in a city street. Coach Dick Vermeil's son was in the locker room scenes a few times as an extra.

Where any other movies ever made about Vince Papale?
Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon Vince Papale's story was also the inspiration for the 1998 TV movie The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon starring Tony Danza. It's about a Philadelphia garbage man named Barney Gorman, who develops his leg muscles from kicking the hydraulic lever on his truck. Barney is then discovered by the Philadelphia Eagles and signed by them to become a kicker.

Vince Papale Interviews and Related Video:
Former Eagles wide receiver Vince Papale, inspiration for the new Disney movie "Invincible," interviews actor Mark Wahlberg. Also watch the 2002 NFL Films feature on his life that caught Hollywood's attention and inspired the making of the movie.