Vince Papale had played one year of high school football, went to St. Joe's University where he ran track and became a high school teacher. He never played football in college. In 1976 at the age of 30, he tried out at open try-outs to be a football player for the Philadelphia Eagles. Not to ruin the movie for those of you who have not seen it, but Vince makes the team (else why would they make a movie about his life?) Someone once said of him that he "is the physical manifestation of every fan's desire."
I'm not particularly an Eagles fan, but I am a Cubs fan. I think there are some similarities. Can you imagine watching your favorite sports team your whole life, spending your seasons in loyal dedication hoping and praying and wishing for a championship for your team? We've all been there. Now, imagine if you will that your favorite team says, "we're having open tryouts." It's like American Idol for the sports world! Anyone who has talent can have the chance of making it in the bigs. This is Vince Papale. You can see why he is, indeed the physical manifestation of every fan's desire.
Another person describe Papale as "a free-agent walk on that defied logic."
What I loved about Vince Papale was how he has embraced his celebrity and realized that he has the power to do good. His three year tenure on the Eagles as a special teams player ended 30 years ago. Today he is still making an "impact" in the lives of others, and this was the tenor and theme of his presentation. Using his life story as a guide, he delivered his message which culminates with catch phrases like "Be the best you can be," "Hold Fast to Your Dreams," and "You are Invincible." Generally, these cliches are just that, cliche. However, if you heard Vince Papale deliver his message, you would know that they are not cliche messages to him; he means them, and he is sincere. I like that. I'm a sucker for "keeping it real," and Papale is about as real as it gets.
Vince gave credit to the men who made a difference in his life. He spoke highly of his father, a coach, a high school teacher and Eagles coach, Dick Vermeil. Again, if you haven't seen the movie, pay close attention to Greg Kinear's portrayal of Vermeil. He is spot on. I wanted to share a few key phrases that Papale shared with the crowd. He called them Vermeil-isms.
- "Nobody ever drown in sweat." (LOVE THAT!! I'M USING THAT ONE ON MY KIDS!)
- "Don't overload your mouth with your butt." (Love that..also using with the kids!)
- "An opponent is worth to a person exactly what their preparation enables them to make it." (Love it!)
It's been a great week for me. I've been inspired by many individuals this week, and Vince Papale is one of them.
I will conclude with this. As I was in the elevator going down to listen to Vince, I met a mom and her two children dressed for a trip to the hotel swimming pool. I said, "Are you going swimming?" "Yep," said the boy, "and where are you going?" "I'm going to meet a famous football player," I said. He paused for about three seconds and said, "I'd rather go swimming!" I told that story to Vince, and he laughed. He has kids, so I thought he'd get it! He did!
I'm grateful for the wonderful opportunities that I've had in my life to travel and meet inspiring people. I'm grateful that I heard Vince Papale share his story.