VINCE PAPALE is a
storyteller, so his position as an account executive and director of special
projects for student-loan outfit Sallie Mae lets him relate his own history to
young people looking to get ahead. It goes something like this: Scrappy kid
from the Philadelphia projects overcomes long odds/naysayers/physical
limitations to hit it big in sports. (It's a popular theme in Philly, one that
earned another Italian underdog an Oscar.) Our hero, who tends bar and
substitute teaches while working on a Master's degree, goes to an Eagles tryout
in 1976, at age 30, and makes the club as a kamikaze special-teamer and
sometime wide receiver. He lasts three NFL seasons before injuries bring his
fantasy to an end. If his story were made into a movie, it might be called
In fact, it is.
Disney's Invincible, starring Mark Wahlberg, hits theaters on Aug. 25. But for
all the film gets right ( Wahlberg nails Papale's three-point receiver's stance
and Boogie Nights coif), it leaves out the epilogue. Papale's playing career
ended quietly when he separated both shoulders. After a gig as a Philadelphia
sports reporter Papale served as director of fitness at U.S. Healthcare, where
he met Janet Cantwell, a former gymnast who became his third wife. In 1999 it
was on to Sallie Mae.
One more twist in
Papale's story: In 2001 he learned he had colon cancer, and doctors removed 18
inches of his colon. "It didn't take me long to stop feeling sorry for
myself," he says. "Two days [after the surgery] I walked about two
miles." As if that weren't enough to cheer about, the next year he received
a call inquiring about the movie rights to his life. He won't reveal specifics
of the deal but says it netted him "significantly more than I made with the
Eagles, that's for sure."
Papale, 60, lives
in Cherry Hill, N.J., with Janet and their children, Gabriella, 12, and
Vincent, 9. He plans to take the whole family to the premiere of Invincible in
August. "That might be a long limo ride though," he says with a laugh.
"I hear they're having it in Hollywood."
A Flurry of PUNCH
When members of
the greatest U.S. Olympic boxing team reunited, the jabbing was all in good
THE 1976 U.S.
Olympic boxing team was still mixing it up last week. The squad that won seven
medals, including five golds, at the Montreal Games was about to be honored as
the finest Olympic boxing team ever assembled, and on the bus ride from their
hotel to the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., the fighters were throwing
jabs at one another.
Randolph, don't talk with your mouth open," said Charles Mooney.
look at me if you see me," added Howard Davis.
Soon Randolph and
Davis were reciting Abbott and Costello's "Who's on first?" bit, and
the mischievous Leon Spinks was flooring his old pals by asking them to behave.
"You see," said Sugar Ray Leonard, "nothing has changed."