AFL Players Are 'Invincible'

28 August 2006 Arena Football League by Paul Blackborow
For fans lost without Arena Football, the wait is over. Although the season does not begin for several months, the AFL was well represented when the movie Invincible premiered Friday, August 25. Invincible tells the true story of former Philadelphia Eagle Vincent Papale, played by Mark Wahlberg. Papale, the oldest non-kicking rookie in football history, made the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976 after attending an open tryout for the team.  The film took in an estimated $17 million on its opening weekend.
 
You can check out a clip from the movie right here.
 
Tampa Bay Storm quarterback and movie casting veteran Pat O’Hara, was the liaison for the AFL through his work with ReelSports. ReelSports is responsible for placing players in the movie, as well as choreographing the football scenes.
 
O’Hara, as an AFL player, understands many of the hardships these football players face. “I tried to use as many players from the League as I could because I know how it is finding jobs in the offseason.”
 
O’Hara, who also worked on the movie The Longest Yard, says he felt more pressure casting this time around for Invincible. “The NFL backed this movie, which is a big deal since the NFL does not back just any football movie,” he said. “In order to get everything perfect it required hours of research.”
 
AFL players placed in the movie included Kansas City Brigade quarterback Chris Sanders (portrayed New York Giants quarterback Craig Morton), Orlando Predators WR/LB Clif Dell (body-double for Mark Wahlberg), and New York Dragons QB Sam Clemons (Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Roger Staubach). While Dell and Clemons had worked with Reel Sports in previous movies, Sanders’ path to the big screen rivals that of Vincent Papale himself. Sanders was informed of the movie by several of the players in the AFL, and decided to go to the open tryout in Philadelphia. It was after his performance at the tryout that he was cast.
 
With approximately 50 other AFL players in the cast, Dell, Clemons and Sanders felt right at home. “Working with the guys was neat. I made a lot of good friends working on this set,” Dell offered. 
 
Sanders said the AFL players were very competitive during the film. “A lot of us had also enjoyed playing on an outdoor field again since we haven’t played on one for a while,” he commented.
 
Vincent Papale himself also was a major reason the AFL players enjoyed their time on the set.
 
O’Hara, who spent significant time talking with Papale, appreciated his approach to the film. “Vinnie kept telling me how he couldn’t sleep at night because he was so excited about the project,” O’Hara offered.
 
Clemons was impressed by how genuine the subject of the film was on the set. “He was down to earth,” Clemons said of Papale. “He was engaging with the players telling them stories about how it was when he was playing. When he was speaking, everyone was paying attention to exactly what he was saying.”
 
Despite all of the players enjoying their time shooting the film, each player agrees that the movie industry has some faults.  Dell says his least favorite part of the movie had to do with filming outside over the summer. “With Vinnie being a special teams player, it required constantly running up and down the field,” Dell recalled. “The camera crews had to record every angle of the returns.”
 
Sanders was sympathetic to the special teams guys as well.  “Although it wasn’t too bad for me as quarterback, it was very tough for the guys playing special teams with the heat,” he said.
 
While each of the players admits that the experience was a great one, only Sanders was willing to commit to acting as a second or even future career. “I’ve been bit by the bug,” he admitted. “I’d love to be able to do at least one movie a year.”

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