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.

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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.

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!

Read every review that

Read every review that existed online as of today. Aug 1st (2014
Your insite and input was appreciated and especially hepful.

One exception rated as a "5".

Thanks for caring and sharing Re: Invincible movie reviews.

Sounds as being an "Extra" was a memorable experience.

Garry Jones

I am really glad everyone nit

I am really glad everyone nit picked this movie to death. I was able to keep my 11 year old from believing anything can happen and work hard and follow your dreams. A bit if advice for those that don't enjoy BASED off a true story movies because they're only BASED off of truth. They make TONS of reality tv shows nowadays. But even when you watch them, you may be diss appointed to fund out their 50% scripted. If you're looking for a BASED off a true story movie that is 100% accurate, stop looking. Movies are for entertainment, auto-biography a are for facts. Heck, most of what you see on the news today has been spiked for entertainment purposes.

How very true -

How very true - unfortunately!!

Thank you for a wise posting.

I was on Dick Vermeil's staff

I was on Dick Vermeil's staff when we had the open tryout, we didn't believe anybody would likely make the team, we needed players to work against in training camp. Dick ran the toughest most demanding camp I was involved in during 28 seasons coaching football. Vince was a good athlete with very little experience playing organized football. He had incredible courage and the wildest most wreck less kick coverage guy we had ever seen. He is an easy guy to like and terrific teammate. He wasn't with us when we went to the Super Bowl in 1980, but he was with us in spirit, every coach and every player benefited from being in the same locker room Vince.

i remember watching a game

i remember watching a game where he did score a touchdown on a muffed punt. i was at subgroup 2 and we were watching the game on the barracks tv. as all things navy for beached sailors waiting for a sub it was ww2 furnishings. one thing i hated about the navy. should have joined the airforce. lol

How can anyone say that they

How can anyone say that they are disappointed after finding out some of the facts? Even a supposedly factual Hollywood documentary still has some artistic license being taken and isn't 100% accurate. What would you expect from a Disney film if not a little polishing around the edges? It's still a good movie that stays pretty true to the real story compared to a lot of "based on a true story" films. It's one thing to not like the movie but it's ridiculous to not like it because the real guy was 4" taller and played 2 years of semi-pro ball.

I am a Boston guy living near

I am a Boston guy living near Philly, but everyone I've met who has come across Vince all say he's the real deal. Disney can play with the facts, but the man is very much the kind of mam portrayed.

It's a great movie~ Why nit

It's a great movie~ Why nit pick it to death>?
The real story was great too, just not as "Hollywood"~ Enjoy the wholesome entertainment we can watch with our kids~ Something with a message!

Gentlemen (and Ladies), Don't

Gentlemen (and Ladies),

Don't forget, this guy never played college ball. He made the pros as a walk on. That is the truth.... also don't' forget that Special Teams is a legitimate component of the game. I mean, unless I'm missing something, they field those teams with professional players that have to make the cut on a limited NFL Roster.

And 3 years or 4 years is an average NFL career--for guys starting their careers at 22 or 23. BTW, He wasn't cut from the team. He retired because of a shoulder injury. Hey, it's the NFL. They hit pretty hard--harder than the couch or the seat of my office chair that I "wear" everyday these days. And I still complain about that some days.

The bottom line is that it's a phenomenal story. Don't be too quick to take anything away from the man. He earned every bit of it. He was voted Special Teams Captain by his team mates-NFL players that played long side the man, day in and day out.

P.S. I retired from the Army. Hollywood is out of touch there too. But I have to tell ya that real life is a lot more boring. As for me, I'd rather sit in a theater, eat my popcorn, and watch the jazzed up version....

Guys, it was BASED on a true

Guys, it was BASED on a true story....if you want to know the real deal, read a book on Vince. Movies are entertainment, that's all.

Why was his life not enought

Why was his life not enought to be portrayed as it was. Shame to downgrade his life like that. I enjoyed the story but it felt diminished because of that.

I have just finished watching

I have just finished watching the movie and I also question films that are described as factual..... what a huge let down this movie was after reading all the inaccuracies!! and thanks everyone for the factual information.

Thank u for the

Thank u for the clarifications. As a big football and movie fan I really enjoyed the film and I don't think many of us are surprised by the fudging of the truth. There's still enough truth there to enhance the movie for me rather than spoil it for me. Wahlberg is a good somewhat underrated actor and Invincible is a heck of a lot better than plenty out there. Cheers!

The only thing that ruined

The only thing that ruined this movie for me was finding out that Marky Mark never really played for the Iggles....

Regarding number 8: He wasn't

Regarding number 8:
He wasn't told in the parking lot in the movie. The movie showed the Coach telling him in his office. He pushed the playbook to the coach,the coach pushed it back to him in the movie. Papale told his his friend, brother, whoever that guy was (movie had already started about 15 minutes, so not sure who he was) that he had made the team in the parking lot next to his car.

he was told he could come to

he was told he could come to training camp in the parking lot and told he made the team in office

Wrong..when he pushed the

Wrong..when he pushed the playbook back to him that wasn't when he told him he could join training camp, that was after training camp and cuts, he was telling him he made the team...he walked out to the parking lot by his car to tell him he could come to training camp, as whoever wrote this said..don't try to correct something when you don't know what you're talking about...btw, that wasn't 15 minutes into the movie when Vince told the other guy he made that team, more like 45..you missed alot more of the movie than you think

if you're gonna disagree at

if you're gonna disagree at least one person should be right... Vince was approached by the coach in the parking lot after tryouts and asked if he knew how fast he ran... that's all we saw. Maybe after that they went to the office to talk and the movie was factually correct about the whole training camp invite issue. Who knows. Who cares. I liked it.

This is true. A lot of

This is true. A lot of assumptions based on the parking lot conversation. No one can say for sure what transpired other than he told Papale he ran a 4.5/40

Take a look at the info on

Take a look at the info on Remember The Titans. Alot in the movie was hollywoodized... but a good movie...

Vince was actually married

Vince was actually married when he was an Eagle. Her name was Sandy Pease she was the back bone, she was his support at home. Shame the movie left that part out because it was a great part of his life.

The final touchdown of the

The final touchdown of the 1976 home opener was scored on a 1 yard touchdown run by Mike Boryla. You can check out the game stats here ... http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/197609190phi.htm

I assume, since the rules back then denied the punt team to advance a muff punt, that despite Papale's scoop and score, the ball was placed at the recovery point where the Eagles took over with their offense.

Here is another link that explains this play further where it states ...

The climatic touchdown that Vince Papale scores against the Giants off the fumbled punt is based on a real play. The actual play can be seen during a montage in the closing credits. However, Papale was not awarded a touchdown for his effort. The referees called the play a "muff", not a fumble, and thus the ball cannot be advanced beyond the drop.


One thing that the movie did imply during that game was that the muff recovery/implied touchdown was the winning score of a fiercely fought game with the outcome in doubt, but in reality the Eagles were ahead the entire game and only allowed a meaningless touchdown to the Giants late in the 4th quarter ... but that's Hollywood for ya!

They didn't even try to talk

They didn't even try to talk like they were from philly. In philly eagles are pronounced iggles. Same with the movie starring Bradley Cooper.

I saw the movie when it first

I saw the movie when it first came out. I know not all is the truth but it is a very good movie and hats off to all the actors and Vince himself. I recently found a copy in a video store and had to buy it. My 12 yr old soon and I have really enjoyed the movie and are glad we have it as part of our collection.

If you watch the credits ,

If you watch the credits , you see vince score a touchdown via real NFL film . Please explain !

He didn't score a

He didn't score a touchdown..he picked the ball up and ran it into the endzone, but they didn't award him the score. Because back then you weren't aloud to advance a muffed kick, but clearly he didn't know that

That's y there are scripts if

That's y there are scripts if the story was all true the actors could re-enact from the man himself as he seen it. As it says "based on true events" or stories not the actual facts

HIs uncle did own a bar in

HIs uncle did own a bar in south Philly..and he was working there, when he got encouraged to try out..Then the invite came two days later.. He was ecstatic!..And he did score a td.

Well thank goodness we got to

Well thank goodness we got to the bottom of that! Boy would I have sounded silly telling all my friends and family that Vince Papali scored a touchdown in real life. Whew!!! That was close! And to think I actually thought a 5'8" wide receiver made it to the pros as a walk-on? How embarrasing for me!

If you watch the replay of

If you watch the replay of the famous muffed punt play, you'll see that Papale hits the returner before the ball gets there, which is a penalty. The refs blew the call. In today's game, the Giants' coach would throw the challenge flag, the refs would reverse the call after watching instant replay, and it would be Giants ball with a 15 yard penalty on Papale.

Papale never touched the punt

Papale never touched the punt returner. His own man hit him, and the reason for no flag. Not a blown call!!!

can't challenge a penalty

can't challenge a penalty that wasn't called. nice try, though.

That's not a play that can be

That's not a play that can be challenged.

Any turnover is automaticaly

Any turnover is automaticaly challenged upstairs. So he might not. Got the penalty but it would. Of been giants ball.

Nothing is automatically

Nothing is automatically challenged, it is automatically reviewed. To challenge something someone has to disagree with something. A review is taking another look at something to check its accuracy.

Thanks for this post...

Thanks for this post... exactly what I wanted to know. I just watched this movie in the dentist's chair, and like to check out the facts after "inspired by" movies.

IMDB also has a point agreeing with your #9, that it was ruled a muff. But it does say that the clip at the end where he apparently scores is from the real play, so if we take your point that he caused the fumble and the footage as he thought he scored, then the only thing the movie is missing is the flag, which is not that egregious. I mean, the play probably unfolded like the movie shows, probably without that audible.

Thank You :) What an amazing

Thank You :) What an amazing story- Grateful for those who fought to make the movie come together- If only their were more films being produced like "Invincible" in today's collection- My son graduated from Villanova and is my inspiration- Playing sports in high school (not football) and finally graduating as an civil engineer. He has a "Never Give Up" attitude which has served him well through out his life. Mark Wallberg did a terrific job in conveying the struggles, disappointments and finally the rewards which come when you are able to hang in there :)

If you look up Vince Papale's

If you look up Vince Papale's football stats, he never scored a touchdown offensively, defensively, or special teams. I took a look at Pro-football reference.com to see this.

Thanks for posting this... I

Thanks for posting this... I always want to know the line between reality and hollywood... especially when Disney is involved.

I would prefer not knowing

I would prefer not knowing the whole truth. It almost ruins the movie for me.

In other words, don't let the

In other words, don't let the truth get in the way a good story?

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