Former Philadelphia Eagle walk-on Vince Papale, whose story was the subject of the 2006 film "Invincible," was honored Saturday evening for something that he did off of the football field.
Papale, who was diagnosed with colon cancer during a routine colonoscopy 13 years ago, was honored at the Roswell Park Alliance 24th Anniversary All Star Night at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center for his courage and dedication in the face of such a debilitating disease.
During the event, which benefits research and patient programs, Papale received the Gilda Radner Courage Award, which recognizes a cancer survivor whose courageous public battles have given hope to people with cancer and focused public attention on the fight against the disease.
The award is named after actress Gilda Radner, who passed away from ovarian cancer in 1989.
"It was an honor," Papale said over the phone. "It was humbling and really exciting. To be recognized by Roswell Park, who is on the cutting edge of the field, it is just special."
As a prominent figure, Papale has been very vocal about the disease. He speaks publicly frequently, advocating screenings, check-ups, and colonoscopies.
"I've spoken thousands of times, and to just have people come up to you and say that you've made a positive impact on their life is amazing."
Even off of the football field, Papale continues to find new ways to inspire people, providing hope for those in need and using his platform, which has grown exponentially since the release of Disney's film in 2006, to spread his message of overcoming.
"Back on the field, I wasn't an inspiration for my teammates, I was a leader to them. I would go out and play hard and lead that way. Now, since the film, and Disney and Mark Wahlberg, the inspirational aspect has grown, and most importantly, it has become multi-generational."
Papale detailed how happy it makes him to see the look on young fans' faces when they are told that he was the basis for the "Invincible" film. Papale's story, which he likens to a metaphor for anyone out there with something to prove, is one that will live on.
Although the former receiver/ special teams player no longer suits up on Sundays, he is still extremely invested in his hometown team.
"There is something about this team that has just hooked me," he said. "I've got to know Chip Kelly a bit, and some of the guys. I talk to Chris Margos regularly. I feel like I'm part of it."
Papale is not happy with the seemingly quick dissmissal of Nick Foles by Philadelphia fans and some media members ("Where's the compassion?"), and feels that some of his mistakes could easily be adressed.
"I would probably be back-pedaling too if I had some of those big boys running at me," he joked, before crediting Marc Sanchez, and Kelly, for their preparations.
When asked if he thought the Eagles had a shot to play late into January, or even February, he didn't hesitate.