The Redskins were scheduled to begin their three-day rookie minicamp in Ashburn on Friday, giving coaches their first look at quarterback Dwayne Haskins in burgundy and gold. While most of the attention will be on Haskins and his fellow draft picks, as well as the eight college free agents Washington signed over the past two weeks, 44 other players were invited to Redskins Park to try out. The list of hopefuls includes former Delaware wide receiver/punt returner Vinny Papale, who is a long shot to make the team but has the pedigree to beat the odds.
Papale’s dad, Vince, was the inspiration for the 2006 Disney movie “Invincible,” starring Mark Wahlberg, which tells his improbable story of making the Philadelphia Eagles roster as a 30-year-old rookie after a private tryout with Coach Dick Vermeil.
“It was cool growing up,” Vinny, who was raised in the Philadelphia suburb of Cherry Hill, N.J., said in an interview at the College Gridiron Showcase in January. “Everyone knows ‘Papale;’ everyone knows the name, especially around the Philly area. It was cool. I had a lot of cool experiences, but at the end of the day, he just wants to be known as Vinny’s dad, basically. To my teammates, he’s Vinny’s dad, and that’s all he’s ever wanted to be.”
To a generation of Eagles fans, Vince was the ultimate underdog, a real-life Rocky. After running track at Saint Joseph’s University, Papale became a teacher. He started playing football in his free time and eventually found himself playing wide receiver in the semipro World Football League. The WFL folded in 1975, but Papale earned a tryout the following year with Vermeil, who was hired to turn around an Eagles franchise that hadn’t finished with a winning record in a decade.
Vince made the team out of training camp and appeared in 41 games over the next three seasons. He retired and became a sportscaster after dislocating his shoulder in the Eagles’ 1979 preseason opener. Used primarily on special teams, Papale had one catch for 15 yards in his NFL career.
So proud of Vinny's solid performance at Pro Day ... especially popping the best 40 time in the house. Keeping the dream alive! pic.twitter.com/YVmhL0zm9b
“It obviously gets tossed around, like me following in his footsteps, but I’m really not,” said Vinny, who, unlike his father, played college football. Injuries limited the 6-foot-1, 205-pound wideout to 11 games as a freshman and sophomore, but he appeared in every game over his final two years at Delaware.
After making 36 catches for 618 yards and six touchdowns as a senior and running a 4.57-second 40-yard dash at Delaware’s pro day, Papale was invited to the Eagles’ local prospect tryouts April 17.
“I can’t even put words to the emotions I would feel,” Papale said of the possibility of playing for the Eagles. “It would just be surreal.”
After going undrafted, Papale was invited to the Oakland Raiders’ rookie minicamp last week but went unsigned. It won’t be easy for him to stand out this weekend at Redskins Park. Washington selected wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon in the third and sixth round, respectively, and invited four other wideouts, including former William & Mary standout Tre McBride, to try out. If Papale makes the team — an Eagles rival, no less — “Invincible” needs a sequel, or at least an updated epilogue.