By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Vince Papale, a former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, the inspiration of the move “Invincible” and Philadelphia Soul broadcaster, recently took time to do a Question and Answer session with The Capital Sports Report. His interview is about his sports career, movie, and current views of the Eagles.
TCSR: Could you talk about walking off the streets and trying out for the Philadelphia Eagles?
VP: “It was pretty exciting in 1976. You know, Dick Vermeil was looking to shake up the team – they were 2-12 or 3-11 in the 14-game season – then and he set up a free agent tryout, but I was one of those that were invited by the General Manager of the team. Coach Vermeil had no idea who I was, but what he did see from the start was my speed. Then, he thought if he could translate my speed into hitting and catching the ball, I might make the team. That’s basically what happened. That’s the basis of the movie ‘Invincible.’ ”
TCSR: Could you talk about playing for Dick Vermeil when you played for him?
VP: “Well, it was a wonderful experience. Playing in the NFL is an opportunity of a lifetime. The one thing I liked about playing for Coach Vermeil was that he reminded me of playing for my high school coach. He was very organized and he was very dedicated and committed to his players. So, even though that level was so high in the NFL, it still translated down to the levels that I understood. Being a former coach and teacher myself – and Dick Vermeil being a teacher and a coach – we related. Our fathers were guys that worked in the factories. We have an Italian-American heritage. All these things connected between Coach Vermeil and I, so I think that’s why I still have a great relationship with him to this day.”
TCSR: How do you think Mark Wahlberg did in the movie playing you?
VP: “I thought he did a great job. Mark Wahlberg is a tremendous actor, but besides that, he’s a good guy. He’s a really humble guy. He came in and worked hard. His attitude throughout the entire movie process was that he didn’t want people to think I’m a prima donna. He said I have earn my spot on the team – and that’s the way he approached his role. He didn’t want to be considered the star, but just one of the guys, like I was trying out for the team. He earned the respect of all the professional football players that were on the field. They were all Arena Football League players and the irony is that there were a couple of guys from the Soul in the movie. So, there’s a tremendous tie-in between the Soul and my movie.”
TCSR: Did Mark Wahlberg call you for any advice?
VP: “No, he didn’t call me, but he did something better: he hung out with me. We established a personal relationship. He came to my house and watched my little boy play football. We played golf together. We spent a lot of time together off the set prior to him going on the set. He tried to learn as much about me as possible – like the way I walk, the way I talk – and he did a great job being me. A lot of people tell me, ‘You’re much more energetic in the film,’ but that’s the way I was in 1976. The guy you’re talking to today is not the same person that was trying to make the team in 1976. I was just trying to make the team, so I wasn’t trying to say the wrong things.”
TCSR: What are your thoughts on the current Eagles team led by Andy Reid?
VP: “I think it’s a great team. It needs a little work obviously, but they have the players in place that should lead them to the Super Bowl in the next year or two. If Michael Vick hadn’t broken down this past year, there’s no question in my mind that they would have had a good shot to win it. They did a remarkable job with all the injuries that took place.”
TCSR: What are your thoughts on the current quarterback situation with Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb?
VP: “It’s a tough situation. I’m personally a close friend with Kevin Kolb. I was one of the first guys he met with when he got to Philadelphia, so I was able to build a bond with Kevin, his wife Whitney, and their family. My wife actually sold him his house, so besides that personal connection with Kevin, I just want him to be successful. If he’s not going to be the starter here in Philadelphia, I want him to get an opportunity to start somewhere. I think he’s an Aaron Rodgers-type of quarterback. But obviously, Michael Vick is the man right now, and it seems like he’s the future.”