DOWNSTATE — It was a scene straight out of a Disney football movie.
Here is Vince Papale, a blue-collar guy from Philly, at an open tryout for a pro team.
But when they time him in the 40-yard dash, he’s not fast enough and gets cut. Wide receivers have to do it in 4.5 seconds and Papale is clocked at 4.75.
Rather than go home, though, he goes to the head coach and asks him for another chance.
“I know I can run a 4.5,” Papale tells him.
The coach says ‘OK,’ Papale gets his 4.5, makes the team and the rest is a made-for-Hollywood story.
That moment really happened — only it wasn’t Dick Vermeil giving Papale another chance to make the Eagles.
That scene took place a few years earlier, in 1974. The team was the Philadelphia Bell and the coach was former Laurel High star Ron Waller.
It’s not too far-fetched to think that Papale playing with the Eagles — the story portrayed in the movie “Invincible” — never would have happened if it weren’t for Waller.
Papale played with the Bell for the year and a half before the World Football League team folded. Waller then called Vermeil to recommend Papale to him and he eventually made the Eagles’ roster after going to another open tryout.
“When he got cut at that tryout camp, if he hadn’t come to me and I said, ‘Go back and run it again,’ there would be no movie,” Waller said with a laugh.
The 74-year-old Waller, who now lives in Seaford, said he wasn’t surprised that Papale eventually beat the odds.
“He was a tough guy,” said Waller. “He was energetic and he wanted to play.”
Waller hasn’t gone to see “Invincible” yet. He plans to, though. The other day he was just looking up the show times to see when it was playing.
Even though he and the Bell don’t get mentioned in the movie, Waller thinks he’d enjoy watching it.
“It’s kind of an unbelievable story,” he said.
A new start
David Baylor is a new member of the University of Delaware football coaching staff this fall.
But his role really has nothing to do with the sport.
Baylor is the Blue Hens’ “personal development coach.” The newly created position is one of the program’s responses to having three players charged with armed robbery last spring.
A 23-year veteran of the Delaware State Police before retiring, Baylor’s duties include working with new players “in the areas of community service, personal development, leadership and social responsibility.”
Coach K.C. Keeler, who created the position, would like to think the school is dealing with the issues raised by the arrests “head on.”
“As an alumnus, as a fan, as a coach, we were all very disturbed to have our name mentioned with anything like that,” said Keeler. “But, at the same time, I think what you do realize is that even great parents sometimes have children that do inappropriate things. I think we’ve handled it the right way. I think we’ll grow from the whole experience.”
A busy month
Fans of local college football will have no shortage of games to watch in September.
Delaware State, Delaware and Wesley College combine to play eight home games in the month.
The Wolverines, who opened the season on Saturday, start with three straight home games while the Hens, who open on Sept. 9 by hosting West Chester, play their first two contests at Delaware Stadium.
Fans will have to get used to some new starting times, though.
DelState will play three 7 p.m. games this fall under Alumni Stadium’s newly installed lights.
Delaware will continue its recent trend of playing its early games at night. Its three home games in September are all 7 p.m. starts.
Sports editor Andy Walter
can be reached at 741-8227
or [email protected].