The Papales were crestfallen, figuring the spring’s United States Football League draft on Twitter was over, and that Vinny, a UD alum, had been passed over, despite word he’d get picked.
“I said, ‘Dad, it’s over,'” Vinny recalls. “Then, I got a text two minutes later that read ‘congrats.’ I refreshed my Twitter feed, and it was true. We went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.”
Everyone knows father Vince Papale’s story because of his life’s movie, Invincible (2006). But the current story is the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Vinny, who’s been playing all spring for the Tampa Bay Bandits in the reformed, rebranded eight-team USFL in Birmingham, Alabama, where the former Blue Hen is writing his own underdog storyline: He was the draft’s final receivers selection, a compensatory pick.
“I ran a 4.5 40 [yard dash when he played, as Vinny does now], but I did a 2.2 running into Vinny’s arms,” says father Vince, the 76-year-old former Philadelphia Eagle.
Vinny, 25, had his best season in 2018 as a senior at UD, with 36 catches for 618 yards and six touchdowns. Then he had NFL minicamp tryouts with the Eagles, Raiders and then-Redskins. In May 2020, he signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League (CFL), which canceled the season due to COVID-19. He’s had XFL tryouts and has been with the Conquerors of The Spring League, which also had a coronavirus outbreak.
Now he’s healthy and the games are on — and nationally televised on Fox, NBC and Peacock.
“The name of the game, especially as a free agent, is having fresh game film,” says Vinny, who wasn’t sure he’d play again, so he earned his real estate license as a backup. “An opportunity like this is priceless. Plus, at the end of the day, I’m playing the game l love and trying to get into the NFL.”