`Invincible' Papale honored at Ed Block

He's among recipients of Courage Awards

Pro Football

March 21, 2007|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN REPORTER

After serving as the basis for the movie Invincible, Vince Papale inspired again last night.

Papale, a former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver and special teams player, was honored at the 29th annual Ed Block Courage Awards at Martin's West.

Accepting a special Courage Award, Papale encouraged men over the age of 45 to get tested for cancer.

"It's not that bad, guys," he said, adding that he is a survivor of colorectal cancer. "I was almost invisible, not invincible."

Portrayed in the film by Mark Wahlberg, Papale tried out for the Eagles at the age of 30 in 1976 and made the team's active roster, becoming the oldest rookie in NFL history.

"It was wild because I was on the field with guys I rooted for," he said. "I wanted to go out and grab a beer with them after practice."

The Ed Block Courage Awards are named after the former Baltimore Colts trainer and recognize one representative from each of the NFL's 32 franchises who symbolizes courage and sportsmanship while serving as an inspiration in the locker room.

Cornerback Corey Ivy was the Ravens' selection after suffering a lacerated kidney in Week 5 and returning to play in Week 9.

Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was present after being named the Assistant Coach of the Year by Pro Football Weekly. Ryan, the architect of a Ravens defense that finished the regular season ranked first in the NFL in yards, points and first downs allowed and interceptions recorded, equated receiving the award to winning an Oscar.

"You can't get a bigger award as an assistant coach," he said. "So to be honored this way is huge. It's obviously attributable to the great coaches we have and the players buying into the system, believing in each other, and playing as a team."

Johnny Holliday, the voice of the University of Maryland football and men's basketball teams, was inducted into the Baltimore Sports Media Hall of Fame, joining such media figures as Frank Deford, Sam Lacy and John Steadman.

"One of the things I've always realized is that Baltimore has so many terrific broadcasters," Holliday said. "For me to be inducted into this select group of people is absolutely incredible. I certainly don't deserve it. I call games; it's not brain surgery."

While many of last night's award recipients were honored for recovering from football-related injuries, one of the most poignant stories came from the Detroit Lions' Ricky Sandoval.

Sandoval, the director of security for the Lions, was diagnosed in April with inoperable pancreatic cancer.

Told that the survival rate for pancreatic cancer patients was between 4 and 7 percent, Sandoval -- according to former Lions coach Steve Mariucci, who presented the award to Sandoval -- said: "You know what? That means I've got a chance."

Sandoval overcame a blood clot that caused one of his lungs to collapse, the loss of 70 pounds and weekly chemotherapy treatments -- which prompted the Lions players to nominate Sandoval to become the first nonplayer to win a Courage Award.

"I'm honored to be the first non-player to win this," said Sandoval, who was greeted with a rousing standing ovation. "I do truly appreciate this and thank you all."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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