In the final episode of Season 3 of Slingin It with QB Velocity we had the chance to sit down and talk to the great Vince Papale.
Vince played for the Philadelphia Eagles for three years in which he did an incredible job on every side of the ball. His journey to the pros isn’t the normal one with him being a teacher before becoming an NFL player. His journey has been made into a movie called “Invincible” in which he is portrayed by Mark Wahlberg.
In the interview we had a chance to talk to him about the different avenues of his journey, how it was on set, what it is like having a movie made after you, and how it is now seeing his son play the same sport as he did.
When did you fall in love with the game of football?
“The moment I saw football game so honestly to God. When I was growing up in suburban Philadelphia. The movie has me placed as the Philly guy which is sort of true. I did play that I got four years in, and a pension and we lived in Philly. Matter of fact I'm moving right now and were in a little town called Cherry Hill, NJ were moving and settling down in Florida, but you know the moment I saw a football game I fell in love with it.
We grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood and in a housing project basically, and we're one of the first to have a TV and our Sundays used to revolve around the Eagles games. Believe it or not, we didn’t have Thursday night games or Monday night games for it there was the only game was one o'clock, and you know if you're on the East Coast or West Coast, the only couple teams out there, they were the 49ers and Rams back then.
We didn't have all the others as I don't know 23 or 28 teams in the West Coast now, but as soon as I saw it, as soon as I saw that game, I fell in love with it. And there was this one guy, and we talk about him in the movie's name was Tommy McDonald. I was a little guy. Believe it or not. When I was 14-15 years old, I haven't even hit 5 feet tall, and I haven't even hit 100 pounds.
So, then there was this little guy for the Philadelphia Eagles. Goes by the name of Tommy McDonald and he became my hero. My Idol and I think that when I made the Eagles that we were basically on the same team. Eternity of retired players, and it was so cool, so I just had that love, right, right? Right from the beginning and that's something that I've carried with me.
But my family you know we love the game, but you know we're very close to Coach Pederson, former Coach Pederson and in our course. My son Vinny's playing ball right now in Indianapolis ready to play Thursday night in the spring league.”
What made you run track in college? How did that help with the Eagle and the World League?
“Great question, so here's what happened in high school. I was still pretty tiny, and I never really got to any height. When I was a senior in high school and then it was about 5’7” and 155-160 pounds and my junior high school coach. I played one year in junior high school.
He got in touch with me since I'm coming up coming out for the team. He says, well, I'm a first-year senior, you know. I mean, most schools don't take first year seniors, I want you. So, what he did is he knew I could run. I can catch a football and when we got to weather what we called a training camp for one week training camp with go to the mountains in the Pokeno Mountains in that camp at the end of that camp I was the fastest guy in the team, right? I caught everything thrown at me and the coach actually changed the whole offense to make it a passing offense.
And then somebody saw me playing Semi Pro Football. I had a game out a couple of 300 yards and receptions and four touchdowns and that there was a new League starting called the World Football League back in 1974. So, I got to that they invited me to a free agent tryout and there were 800 guys there and there were 80 wide receivers and of the 80 wide receiver I was the fastest guy in the field. Again, and they gave me a try out.
That said, I got through that try out, next thing and I wound up making the team and was one of their top receiver's and then the league folded after a year and a half. So, I was going to go back and get my teaching job and I go on a leave of absence because there's nothing available for me. So, I started substitute teaching and I started bartending and Dick Vermelle comes in and has a free agent tryout."
What advice would you have for someone going through adversity?
“I just feel so bad cause I talked to so many athletes about this and everything's been all screwed up like look. You know that this the college my son went to University of Delaware. They just won their second playoff game that they were in the spring. I mean at least at least we're flexible enough that you know they have a Spring League, but a lot of the high schools were shut down and you know a lot of this sports word. Shut down and I just feel so bad for those juniors and seniors.
You know, fine if you can. If you feel that just like some sort of a club, League or whatever it is, but you know, for those poor souls and young men and young women that last those scholarship opportunities because of the virus, my heart breaks word because one of them could have been my son. Listen my, I know Vinny. Had a couple of three NFL tryouts set up last March and press the covid, boom they were they were they were wiped out here.
2 Pro Days wiped out the three NFL one CFL. He did wind up signing with the CFL, but they stopped. They postpone the League last year so. The opted out and now he's still in the Spring League where he's in Indie right now, so anybody there as you know, I like my best advice is to just keep hanging in there. You know, grind it out eventually this is going to be over. You know, eventually they were going to allow us to take her masks off, and you know and put into whatever the sport might be in and go ahead and move forward and get everybody back to school.
And that's what we really need to do. We got to get everybody back into the classroom, so hopefully that will happen this fall and things will get back to normal. But sure, the thing with the advice would be just hang in there and stay in shape. You know, just you've got it now. You basically have to go out and start promoting yourself and maybe start making some phone calls. Join a club whatever but that's about the best advice I can give right now but don't quit that's the thing do not quit.”
Did you have a favorite part of the movie?
“Yeah, there's 1 scene that gets me pretty good. It chokes me up. It's right after the Cowboys game and it makes it look in a Cowboys game that I'm on a verge of. Perhaps getting cut. I don't really think that was the case, but that was how I thought. So, what I'm doing is I'm driving through the streets of Philadelphia markets, driving through the streets and in a really tricked out car. To see how they set that car up, that with all the lighting and crap it was really wild.
And then he's driving through. It's called the moment of truth and what it is. It's my reconnections to football as I loved it as a kid and as I'm driving as for join me as I'm driving through the streets or some bunch of kids playing football in the street. A girl with pigtails who is my daughter Gabriella who is 9- 10 years old at the time throws a ball out on the street and my son Vinny, who's now in Indie playing Thursday night on national TV.
My son Vinny's like 6 years old, once out with long blonde hair and he's got a number 83 taped on his back. And Mark looks at it and that was like the reconnection. Then he goes and then he then then Marcus and I go into a store to a rough touch game in the mud and I just love that the way they filmed it and the music it was just spectacular. So cool and how the director is spice it up and cut it was it was wild so they're my two favorite you know and now my kids are 27 and 24 but it was fun.”
How much did you help the movie?
“You know the script. Obviously with the script Brad Gay and my kudos, first executive producer, Ken Mok. Who was the Creative America's Next Top Model with Tyra Banks, and he was one. It took the risk, and he spent the money. It's that the writer, script and Brad Gamboa beautiful script. And so, I was certainly part of that. You know, with script writing in the first draft and then I only had business we didn't have. We didn't really have like access.
We didn't have Google then you know you didn't have the access to the Internet when this was all happening back in 2003. And 2004 when we started that when we started the production of the movie. And so, you know, I had a big saying that and then when the movie team was going to go and get shot, they grieve they green lighted. It looks like or green light. Which means now the budgets been accepted so 60 million our budget, which is pretty big for a sports movie. And it was Walt Disney.
And then they had me do a lot of stuff for the wardrobe basically, and then I would take. I would take the cruise round to Philadelphia when it was determined to see the film was going to be shot in Philly, not New York. That they think I would take the crew around the Philadelphia show in certain spots where I used to hang out. Do this and do that, so there's you know a couple of the places that I showed him replaces that they used in the movie.
Other than that, they basically stay the hell out of the way. You know if we see we see you in a frame that we're not supposed to see you in now. That'll cost like $10,000 to shut that scene down. So, they say you stay behind the cameras and stay out of the way and that army once in a while. When I see some garden more wait a minute did with him there. Just shut up. You know we had to make a movie. You know you know how to play football.
Plus, you know, and I they say they say as they say I was breaking my wife chops, but they say, and they say that the relationship that I have with everybody involved with relatively executive producer. With the producers Mark Wahlberg, all the other Co actors and actresses and Elizabeth Banks are not that we've remained friends and we stay in touch, and they say that's rare, never happens and I bust Rudy all the time.
You know, I said, hey look, you know I had Marky Mark from the funky bunch playmate you had flower for crying out loud. Yeah, baby, I mean my mark with his tightly whites. You know, Marcus said he sees the better than she just loves my children. My children love him and he's the greatest and God bless Mark. He just lost his mom and our thoughts and prayers are always with Mark. He was tremendous. Aside from that I was saying yeah, I trained with him for two weeks prior to the shooting in move baby I would run routes and I was in my 50s then I'm running routes and he's you know he would cover me.”
Which part of the movies got Hollywood up?
“Actually, the portrayal of me as a part time bartender to substitute teacher. In reality I was in full time schoolteacher for six years working my master's degree in counseling, head football coach, head track coach, assistant football coach, aspiring to be in Olympic decathlete and I actually did. Qualify my qualifying score for the Olympics trials, but it wasn't a sanction, and I couldn't get into a sanction meet. That's what that's what I got pissed off instead of playing semi–Pro Football.