Keith Lewis and Spencer Havner want to compete, to compile game footage with hopes of an NFL return.
Storm clouds hover above the four-team United Football League, but the two Las Vegas Locomotives' players with NFL résumés and deep Sacramento-area ties refuse to let financial woes rain on their parade.
On Wednesday at Raley Field against the Mountain Lions, Lewis, a linebacker out of Valley High School and Oregon, and Havner of Nevada Union and UCLA, secured 50 total tickets for family and friends. And those fans seemed to represent a good portion dotted in the seats beyond the end zone in support of a league with little name recognition and losing momentum by the week.
"It's always fun to play this game, and you play until you can't play any more," Lewis said.
Or until the paychecks dry up.
Paychecks have been scarce in the financially strapped league. This week, at least two Mountain Lions players left the franchise, upset that they hadn't been paid or received only $1,000 of the expected $3,500 per-game check. It's been a somber theme across the league.
Mountain Lions owner Paul Pelosi could not be reached for comment, and the UFL would not respond for comment. Pelosi did say in a CBS Sports Network interview Friday that players across the league had yet to be paid to that point, adding, "We guarantee they will be paid and we're going to do that very soon."
Bill Mayer, owner of the defending champion Virginia Destroyers and the acting UFL president, said in a statement, "We understand our obligation as it relates to compensating players within the week following our games and it is our intention to honor that obligation."
Lewis and Havner said they have yet to be paid for two games of work, but that they will not quit.
"I'm kind of indifferent," Havner said. "I'm not really doing this for instant cash but more for game film to see if I can get back into the NFL, or to see if I really want to keep playing."
Havner said the Las Vegas team has remained united. "It helps that we're 2-0," he said before Wednesday's 20-9 victory before an announced crowd of 5,210.
"We don't want to be the ones who quit on this team, cause this league to fold. But we're hearing there's a possibility it could fold."
Said Lewis, "We can only control what we can control as players. We have to keep it in perspective and understand that this has happened before with late checks. For most of us, we're trying to audition for an NFL job, so you just go play."
Fans that sprinkled into Raley Field decked in Mountain Lions gold and black said they are aware of the UFL's instability. Fans said they just want to be entertained.
"You can't beat the price or the venue, even if you don't know the mascots or most of the players," said Fred Alba, a 53-year-old real estate agent from Folsom. "It's a fun brand of football, but come on the league needs to pay these guys or it'll fold in a hurry."