1976 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. People needed a champion from their ranks, and a local school teacher answered their call. Vince Papale did the unthinkable and took on an insurmountable challenge…making the Philadelphia Eagles.
The 30-year old schoolteacher, who did not play football in college, not only transformed himself into an NFL football play, but he was voted by his teammates captain of the special teams. He has since been selected by the fans as the best special teamer in the Eagles 75-year history. So incredible is his journey that Disney felt compelled to tell his story in the major-motion picture, “Invincible,” released in 2006.
Why did you start reading Vince?
I travel a lot for speaking engagements and I always have a book in hand; I am really into action novels. Maybe two or three years ago, at bookstore in an airport, I saw a book jacket for a political thriller, written by a guy named Vince that looked athletic in his photo. So, I picked it up. That is how my brain works. I guess that’s what happens when you take too many hits to the head.
Mitch Rapp jumped right out at me.
I often think about what I would have done, almost as if what if I had another life, rather than teaching and football. I had thought about entering the Marines Corps or the Air Force after graduating from St Joseph’s University. I have always been very interested in espionage, Black Ops, Delta and the Navy SEALs.
I meet a lot of those guys when I am speaking, and they make me think of Mitch Rapp, who is my favorite fictional character.
Plus, my daughter goes to Syracuse, and they have a tribute to the victims of the Lockerbie bombing. I know in American Assassin Mitch’s girlfriend is portrayed as one of the victims.
All of these things combined, sometimes I can’t help but think Mitch Rapp is a real person.
Do you have a favorite book?
I related to Mitch, coming out of college as a lacrosse star trying to make the CIA, just like I came out of college a track star and was trying to realize my dream of making the NFL.
Plus, Hurley reminded me of Dick Vermeil, who would break down guys down to decide who he was going to keep for the team and then he would build them back up. When the Eagles made the Super Bowl, a few years after he became coach, he had 12 guys left from the team he inherited and he called them the Dirty Dozen. When I read about Hurley it is Vermeil with a bit less sophistication, but that same drive.
Who do you envision when you read about Mitch Rapp?
I do see myself. We were two guys on a mission. Mitch was trying to make CIA with an advocate in Irene Kennedy and an apparent adversary that would become an advocate in Hurley.
When I tried out for the Eagles, I had advocates in my father and high-school football coach, George Corner, and there was Dick Vermeil, who I thought at first was an adversary, but who, in reality, was my advocate that was trying to drive me to the next level.
I also see Mark Wahlberg when I read about Mitch Rapp. I was with him last week and I told him he should audition for the part for American Assassin.
If you could be a character in a Vince Flynn novel, who would you be?
Definitely Mitch Rapp. Although, in The Last Man, I was a little freaked. It seems like he has aged so quickly and he has hardened. I liked it though. He has seen a lot, maybe too much. You see that happen in real life.
What are you up to these days?
I was diagnosed with Stage I colon cancer around Memorial Day 2011. I had successful surgery, but March is National Colon Cancer month, and I will be attending conferences and participating in public service announcements.
I have a book out that I co-wrote with my wife Janet called, “Be Invincible... A Playbook For Reaching Your Full Potential” aimed at helping readers reach their full potential. We all have things we have to overcome and decisions that were game changers. In a way, it is like “Chicken Soup For The Soul,” where there are stories of people that overcome incredible things. With each story, we provide an action plan for reaching your potential. Janet, who although she was portrayed as a bartender in the movie, was a world-class gymnast and is now a very successful realtor, entrepreneur, and she runs the Invincible show around here.
We will be publishing a “Born To Be Invincible” book targeted towards teens and young adults, with a similar structure as our previous book where we have role models and solutions, but geared towards topics ranging from bullying to nutrition.
We are in the creation stage of a new cable-weekly show called, “Born To Be Invincible.” Each week, I feature guests who have achieved the unthinkable and experienced what we call an “Invincible Moment.”
Plus, I am a tier 1 speaker and am presenting across the country, mostly to Fortune 500 audiences, but I really enjoy speaking at colleges and high schools as well.
I am also working on a PBS special, but I cannot give too many details on that.
Really, I am just trying to be a good dad and a husband. I have a teenage son, Vinny, who is a really good football player and wants to head to Stanford. He made an all-star team and came home with his jersey and it was my number, 83. I was getting all misty eyed so he busted my chops and he told me he chose the number because of Wes Welker.
I have a daughter, Gabriella, that is cheerleading at Syracuse and she wants to get into broadcasting.
Janet and I have been married for 19 years, and will celebrate our 20th anniversary in August.
I call my family, my “why.” They are the reason why I do things and how I do things. They are my #1 motivation and we like to think that together we are an Invincible Team!