It's 10 p.m., and the members of the inaugural Virginia Kings semipro football team are taking a water break during a recent practice at Old Redskins Park in Herndon. The players are talking about their starting quarterback.
"Did you know Ryan Simmons is a minister?" one player asked.
"Yeah, that's why they call him 'Preach,' " another replied.
Preach is not the only one with a day job, which is why the Kings -- a member of the North American Football League's Atlantic Division -- find themselves practicing late on a Tuesday night. Like Simmons, 30, a youth minister at Gateway Community Church in Herndon for 31/2 years, the 65 players on the Kings roster play for something other than money. In fact, each player is expected to help cover the costs of uniforms and travel.
"I think you have to love the game at my age to be able to play," Simmons said. "Walking out on the field on Saturday makes every minute of practice worth it."
The Kings, who opened the season with two road victories, will play their home opener at Centreville High School at 6 p.m. Saturday against the Virginia Crimson Cardinals of Lynchburg. The 10-game schedule runs through mid-September.
The Kings started practice in April, and players spent some of that time getting to know their teammates. The team was formed when three Virginia-based semipro teams joined forces after last season: the Herndon-based Saints (known as the Monarchs when the team played in Prince William County), who were founded in 1998 and won a championship the following season; the Rage, which played two seasons in Centreville, only two miles from the Saints; and the Manassas-based Mutiny, which had a winning record in six seasons but was in financial trouble.
Simmons played last year for the Saints, and some of the team's biggest fans were some of the kids from his church. It's a fan base that the new team hopes to attract. To encourage player-fan interaction, the Kings will feature "Kings Corner," where fans can meet players, coaches and cheerleaders after games.
"This gives kids an opportunity to get to see players up close without paying $70," team co-owner Brian Parks said. "We're starting to come together pretty well."
Tickets are $10; free for children 12 and younger. Information: www.vakings.com.