Vince Papale Profile

  • The ultimate underdog, Eagles fan and 30-year-old part-time bartender, Vince Papale became a professional NFL player on his favorite team after enduring a grueling open training camp in 1976.

  • Papale's uplifting story was depicted in the Disney 2006 summer blockbuster, Invincible, starring Mark Wahlberg.

  • Papale's relatable personality, gripping storytelling, and effective tactics for developing mentally toughness have made him one of the most in-demand motivational speakers in the country.
  • In the course of a few months, Vince Papale went from being a part-time bartender, nightclub doorman, and substitute teacher to an NFL star and national inspiration. The football player was discovered when newcomer coach, Dick Vermeil, held open try-outs for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976. The 2006 Disney film Invincible is based on Papale’s hard work and efforts to make the Eagles and earn the respect of his teammates.

    An Eagles avid fan, Papale’s pre-NFL football career was limited to his senior year of high school, a receiver in the short-lived World Football League, and rough touch leagues. Despite receiving rampant discouragement from his friends and families, Papale mustered the courage and dedication to undergo a free-agent training camp with the possibility of scoring a spot on the Eagles. Ultimately, he won over the heart of Vermeil and Eagles’ fans with his passion, perseverance, and speed, playing three years until he retired due to an injury in the 1979 pre-season.

    Papale’s placement on the team boosted morale in the middle of an eleven-year losing streak and lifted people out of a national gloom that lingered from the Vietnam War and Watergate Scandal. 30 years later, his story continued to capture the public imagination thanks to the summer blockbuster film Invincible, which starred Mark Wahlberg as Papale and Elizabeth Banks as his future wife, Janet. Invincible grossed $58.5 million at the box office and has earned a total of $800 million since its theatrical release.

    Papale became a major advocate for cancer screening after being diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001. He had 18 inches of his colon removed in a life saving surgery and has been in remission for several years.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio
        • Some of Hollywood’s most inspirational movies were born from the world of sports. One in particular inspired not only sports fans but anyone with a pulse. In 2006 Walt Disney Pictures continued their triumphant tradition of motivating sports stories with the release of


        • . It’s a stirring football drama starring Mark Wahlberg as Vince Papale, an ordinary guy who, against all odds, takes his shot at every fan’s fantasy of going from the grandstands to the gridiron. It has been described that Papale’s odds of achieving his wildest lifelong dream of playing for the Eagles as “one in a gazillion!”

      It was 1976 when this 30 year old, a teacher and coach at his HS Alma mater, part-time bartender and die hard Eagles fan decided to act on a whim and a dare and entered the unprecedented public tryouts for his beloved Eagles. Inspired by this quote from his high school coach mentor, “Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make those dreams come true”, he figured he had nothing to lose. Papale, a ten year season ticket holder and former track star who did not play a down of college football, not only paid the price and made the cut . . . he made history!

      It was a time when Philadelphia fans were buried in 11 years of defeat, when Americans were battling the lingering effects of Watergate, the Vietnam War and a sweeping energy crisis. Ordinary people appeared badly in need of a champion from their ranks and Vince answered the call. Now, in today’s uncertain economic times he continues to respond to the need for a motivating hero who knows what it’s like to battle and overcome adversity.

      Instantly electrifying the fans and eventually winning over skeptical teammates with his gritty play, Papale helped the Eagles rediscover their winning ways. From being voted Special Teams Captain by his teammates to earning Eagles “man of the Year’ in 1978 for his numerous charitable activities Papale was an NFL sensation until a shoulder injury ended his playing career in 1979. Having now added “cancer survivor” to his bio, Papale continues to hold the record for being the oldest rookie in the National Football League (kickers excluded). He was recently honored by the Eagles and their fans and was named “Most Outstanding Special Teams Player” during a celebration of the Philadelphia Eagles 75th anniversary.

      “Not often can a person see a film made about their own life’s journey,” Papale said of Invincible. “What’s even rarer is having that movie described as inspirational, motivational, and giving hope. There’s a feeling of intense pride and humility that, at times, is overwhelming.”

      Vince is married to former US World Team Gymnast, Janet Cantwell, and they reside in Cherry Hill, NJ, with their two children Gabriella and Vincent. Today, he electrifies audiences and is regarded as one of the top motivational speakers on the country. The ultimate underdog continues to thrill audiences with his energy and humor.

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    Vince Papale's Speech Descriptions

    Philadelphia Eagles legend and motivational speaker, Vince Papale shares how he overcame adversity and pessimism to make his long shot dream come true. The unconventional former NFL player uses his underdog tale to illustrate positive ways to maintain mental toughness, adapt to change, and achieve your full potential.

    Since his 2001 battle with colon cancer, Papale has also become an in-demand spokesperson and educator concerning cancer awareness, early detection, treatments, and men’s health.

      The “Papale Playbook”

      In Vince’s energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate style, listeners get glimpses of what it took to go from a season ticket holder to Captain of an NFL Team. He shares his Leadership Playbook with his audience as well as telling stories about the people that impacted him, from some of sports coaching greats to his mentors. He took the opportunity of a lifetime and ran with it… lifting a team looking for a leader and a city starving for a hero. From the bleachers, as a 10 year season ticket holder to the Captain of an NFL Team, Vince relates how it was done with his Papale Playbook and how you can lead others to take it to the next level.

      This program can include sub-themes of:

      • Team Building: Make your team special!
      • Leadership

      Hold Fast to Dreams

      Going from being called a loser with no pedigree and no college football experience to Captain of an NFL Team is the stuff that dreams, and movies, are made. Using video clips from Invincible, Disney, and ESPN, Vince, a tremendous story teller, shares his tips on seizing opportunities, overcoming odds, fulfilling potential and taking it to the highest level. His energy, passion and humor will keep the audience on the edge of their seats. He made 2nd effort a part of his personality and got the ultimate last laugh on those who doubted him. He will bring people from tears of sadness to tears of joy and bring them to their feet as they feel his journey is their trip as well.

      Educate Yourself Into the Endzone

      The untold story in Invincible is that Vince was a full-time teacher and coach at his high school alma mater, working on his master’s degree, when he chased his wildest dream. Vince skillfully weaves his amazing story, with a nice blend of humor and passion, sharing his playbook for success mixing in education as the main ingredient. He relates his “Bucket of Crabs” story of how many of his peers were rooting against him to succeed and how, if it weren’t for his teacher, coach and mentor, he never would have made it. He shows the way for his audience to grasp that “the more you learn the more you earn!”

      From Invisible to Invincible

      One of the biggest hits Vince took was when he found out he had colon cancer. Now “green and clean,” he raptures audiences with his story of his emotional journey on the road to recovery. He also shares with us his having to deal with mental illness in his family when he was a youngster and provides some coping tips. Now a spokesperson for cancer awareness, he wows audiences with his understanding, compassion, and humor when dealing with these life obstacles. From caregiver, to patient, to survivor you will feel ready to tackle any challenge after hearing Vince speak about one of his most passionate causes.

    What People are Saying about Seeing Vince Speak

    Rating Entries

      “What can I say but thanks so much for sharing you, your family and your story with NAIFA-PA. it was so much fun having you with us. We certainly enjoyed having Janet with us and “mini” Vinnie was the hit of our dinner. You certainly were an inspiration to our attendees and you set a new standard for future meetings. To have a speaker of your caliber at our functions is a very special treat, one that future leaders will have a tough time duplicating. I am looking forward to seeing INVINCIBLE. It will be a great film to see.”
      Scott D. Jackson, CAE – Executive Vice President & CEO – NAIFA-PA

      “It was a pleasure working with you on this event. Thanks so much for all of your help in promoting it, and for doing a fantastic job inspiring people with cancer and their loved ones. Looks like you made quite an impression on Mark Wahlberg, too. I hope you and I can remain in touch and work together again. It was so much fun.”
      Scott D. Bluebond – Marketing and Communications Director The Wellness Community of Philadelphia

      “I just wanted to extend my sincere thanks for agreeing to speak at Bishop McDevitt last Friday. I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation, and reviews from everyone I spoke to – teachers and kids – have been universally positive. I know Lisa Ford and the gang from McDevitt could not have been more pleased. I did just check out your web site and it is very cool – certainly both informational and attention grabbing. Best of luck with the movie and the continued success we all certainly hope continues to come your way. Thanks so much again!”
      Andy Costanza – Interboro High School

      “I wanted to tell you that every time I have a doubt or a hard day I think about what you are all about. I think about the speech you made for us at the Burlington County Chamber of Commerce and how inspiring it was. I think about all the challenges you have overcome in your life. It picks me up and makes me refuse to give anything less than my absolute best. I just wanted to Thank You for being such an inspiration.”
      Greg Janney – Comcast Spotlight

      “Vince Papale′s story doesn′t end with NFL football; he′s really an everyday guy who′s repeatedly beaten long odds to take full advantage of life′s opportunities. His story illustrated to us that people can still realize their dreams through persistence. You can′t always win against long odds, he said, but you can always stand up and take your best shot. He advised our members to give 110% and to expect to succeed. If you don′t make it, he said, you can still walk away with your head held high. There′s no shame in losing, he said, only in not trying and in not striving to do your best. He connected with his EBMA audience. Our organization′s members gave him a standing ovation.”
      General Dynamics- Electric Boat Company, Groton, CN

      “Thanks for an inspiring and motivations speech. You are a true living legend.”
      U.S. Healthcare/HMO. Keynote speaker – National Sales Rally

      “May I take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of Deborah for your gracious giving to our humanitarian effort. We are privileged to consider you a member of the Deborah family and making a reality of the words” “Deborah – where healing comes from the heart.”
      Deborah Hospital Foundation. Executive Director. Participation in Fund Raiser

      “Your opening remarks and presentation were excellent and well-received. It is a pleasure to meet and speak with someone who has participated in professional sports and knows what a privilege it is to be so gifted and motivated to be able to perform. And, not only to perform, but perform as well as you did. Your enthusiasm for sports and life is to be admired.”
      Iron League of Philadelphia

      Thank you for your help in making our wellness day such a success. We really appreciate your participation; it could not have been accomplished without you!”
      Sterling High School District

      “Thanks to my dear friend, Vince Papale, our annual Notre Dame/Penn State Banquet was a huge success. You seem to have the unique ability to do a quick overview of an audience, and address your remarks appropriately. I received many comments from members of both clubs telling me how they enjoyed your excellent mix of humor, fun, in addition to your more serious side relative to the remarks you made!”
      Notre Dame/Penn State Banquet

      “On behalf of the Board of Managers of the Camden County Unit of the American Cancer Society, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for making the Monsignor Sharkey Roast a great success. The unit is grateful for your commitment to support the educational and patient service programs of the A.C.S.”
      American Cancer Society Fund Raiser

      “We would like to thank you for being the guest speaker at our SPORTS NIGHT…your time and patience with the (special) athletes is greatly appreciated. We hoe you enjoyed yourself as much as we enjoyed having you.”
      St. John of God Community Services

      “What else can I say” you were great! I received calls at the house this morning from parents who thought you were super!”
      I.B.M. Recognition Picnic

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      Books by Vince Papale:

        Be Invincible!: A Playbook for Reaching Your Full Potential

        Order Here

        Invincible: My Journey from Fan to NFL Team Captain

        In 1976, Vince Papale was a down-on-his-luck substitute teacher, part-time bartender, and season ticket holder for the Philadelphia Eagles, the team he’d grown up rooting for. He had always loved football, but the closest he’d ever come to playing on Sundays was in local rough touch leagues. Until fate stepped in.

        Vince was thirty years old and wondering what he would do with his life, when he heard that Coach Dick Vermeil was holding open tryouts for the Eagles. He had nothing to lose, and with the coaches eyeing him, he ran an explosive 40-yard dash in just 4.5 seconds – a world-class time – and was offered a contract on the spot. But, as much as his speed, it was Vince’s heart that impressed Vermeil.

        But there was more to the story – Vince’s success was tempered by a complicated family life, a past that continued to haunt him, even as a hometown football hero.

        At its core, Invincible is an underdog story that will inspire others to pursue their dreams, too.

        Order Here

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