Sometimes called "The Real Rocky," Vince Papale is a local guy whose dream really came true, to play professional NFL football for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Vincent Francis Papale was born on Saturday, February 9, 1946 in Glenolden, Pennsylvania. He was graduated from Interboro High School, in Prospect Park, Delaware County in Pennsylvania. Papale was a letterman in basketball, football plus track and field.
Playing only one year of varsity football, he won "All Delaware County Honorable Mention" and in track, Papale was outstanding as a pole vaulter, triple jumper and long jumper. During his senior year at Interboro, he won the "District One" large schools championship in pole vault, finishing 4th in the statewide competition. His best pole jump (12 foot 9 inches) put him in the top ten all-time pole vault jumpers in the state.
Vince went on to St. Joe's with a track scholarship as the college didn't have a football team. Papale, as a junior, won a US Track & Field Federation college development pole vault at Madison Square Garden with a vault of 14'6."
During the seventies, Vince Papale was bartending at Max's Bar in Prospect Park while doing some substitute teaching at his old high school. The Philadelphia Bell was a World Football Federation team that played here in the Quaker City for the 1974 season and part of the next year. Vince played for them as a wide receiver catching nine passes for 121 yards.
In 1976, Papale's life changed. Dick Vermeil, the former head coach for UCLA came to Philly as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, a losing team at that time. Vermeil, who was our 1985 "Person of the Year," held open tryouts. No one thought that a superstar would be found, but that's before they knew of Vince Papale. As season ticket holder, Papale loved the "Birds." He was invited to the Eagles training camp at Widener College.
He made the team (the oldest rookie in NFL history without the benefit of college football) and played for three seasons, retiring in 1979 after an injury. Afterwards, he became a sports broadcaster for the next decade. Then he became involved with commercial mortgage banking which led to his being named "Marketing Executive & Special Projects Director for Sallie Mae, the country's top student financial aid company. He has served as chairman or co-chairman for literally dozens of different charitible organizations in our area.
In 2006, Vince Papale's life changed again when "Invincible" was released and Vince was the inspiration for the movie. Just five years before that, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and has since recovered. He resides in the area with his wife, Janet. The couple has two children, Gabriella and Vincent.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo originally donated by Vince Papale
Bio written and researched by Broadcast Pioneers historian Gerry Wilkinson
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