Wednesday, March 18, 2015

He Was Invincible: The Story Of Vince Papale

One of the fun things about being a sports fan is rooting for the underdog and one of the most famous underdogs was Philadelphia Eagle wide receiver Vince Papale.  He was a 30-year-old rookie in 1976 with no college football experience.  He made the team under coach Dick Vermeil and earned the nickname "Rocky" paralleling the Sylvester Stallone film character Rocky Balboa, which became a hit the same year.

Though much has been made by the fact he didn't play football in college (St. Joseph's University in the Philadelphia area) he was a superb athlete who attended St. Joseph's on a track scholarship where he had considerable success in the long jump, triple jump, and in pole vaulting.  In high school he lettered in football, basketball, and track and field.  After college Vince taught middle school for 6 years at his High School alma mater while working on his masters degree.  He also found time to be the track head coach, was an assistant high school football coach, AND was trying to qualify for the Olympics in the decathlon.  Though he didn't qualify, he was goaded by his buddies into trying semi-pro football.  He made the squad of the Aston Knights of the Seaboard League in 1973 and lead the league in touchdown receptions.

The newly formed World Football League put several semi-pro leagues out of business but that didn't stop Papale.  Hugh Wyatt, the Player Personnel Director of the Philadelphia Bell, brought Vince in for a free-agent tryout with 1,000 other hopefuls.  Only Vince and Dennis Lozzi of Notre Dame (who Vince referred to as "the original Rudy" in a radio interview) were signed from that tryout.

Though the WFL only lasted a year and half, Vince was a serviceable receiver mainly in a backup roll.  After the WFL folded Vince spent time as a substitute teacher and bar tender, while he prepared to go back and resume his teaching position at his alma mater Interboro High School in suburban Philadelphia. At this juncture he was invited to a free agent try out with the Eagles.  The talk of his all-out hustle was not just talk and he made cut after cut, eventually co-leading the Eagles in pre-season receptions in 1976.

He played mainly on special teams where he became Special Teams Captain, and became a role model for other players as well as fans.  The inspiring coach Dick Vermeil made the Eagles winners after years of futility and Vince became a life-long friend of Vermeil. A separated shoulder at the end of pre-season in 1979 saw him spend the first half of that season on the injured reserve after which he retired.
The 2006 film Invincible starring Mark Wahlberg depicts the uplifting story of Vince Papale and he continues to motivate and inspire with speaking engagements and personal appearances. RetroCards is proud to offer a 5-card set honoring Vince Papale to go along with his only card from 1977.  Coming soon!

Vince's only card circa 1977.


  1. My father "King Corcoran" was Vince Papale's QB with the Philadelphia Bell in 1974 and 75, I'm surprised there isn't a Vince WFL card on here? The Anthony Davis Sun card came out great

    1. Thanks for your comment! The Papale set was an early set of ours and I hadn't decided to delve into the WFL world at that time. But after doing the Anthony Davis card, it got me thinking of doing some WFL RetroCards in the future. You may like to know that I have a Spotlight Feature on your father in the works that will include some WFL RetroCards as well as some NFL cards for him. What a character! Keep an eye on the blog!

    2. Wow, I didn't know that? I don't even have any color pictures of him when he was with the Patriots or Eagles? I do have a color Jets picture and some WFL ones. Let me know if you need one?
      Jimmy Corcoran

    3. Hey Jimmy, I have a few photos of your Dad. In the blog Spotlight Feature you'll see RetroCards of him as a Patriot, Jet, Eagle, and Bell. I have two color photos of him as a Jet but one is poor quality. Yes, please send your Jet photo to and I will see if I can use it. Thanks!