FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Talk about your cruel commutes.
Calvin Henderson lives in Tampa, where he has a promising job with a small communications company.
He plays football in Fort Lauderdale, recently hooking on as a defensive end/linebacker with the Barracudas of the fledgling Stars Football League.
That means the former University of South Florida walk-on makes a nine-hour, round-trip drive each week just to keep his dream alive.
And no, they don't pay mileage in the four-team SFL, brainchild of longtime sports agent Pete Huthwaite.
"That comes out of my pocket," Henderson says.
Love of the game?
Uplifting stories of perseverance and belief?
The flip side of the NFL lockout?
You'll find all of that in the ironically named SFL, where players earn between $100 and $500 per game while struggling with the realities of day jobs, spartan facilities and 12-hour overnight bus trips.
That's how the Barracudas traveled to New Orleans in advance of Friday's game.
Of course, it would help if more than half the 36-man roster would show up for practice. That's been a problem for the Barracudas, who conduct workouts at Fort Lauderdale Stadium and play their limited home schedule at Lockhart Stadium.
"You need to call your lineman friends and tell them they need to get to practice," Barracudas coach Marty Culpepper says in a cramped corner of the visitors' clubhouse. "They're killing the rhythm of the game."
Nor was it a good move when somebody left a playbook in the parking lot at Daytona Beach after the last game.
Culpepper, a former star running back at Boyd Anderson and Bethune-Cookman, threatens the violators with $25 fines but has too much empathy to follow through.
He sees the faces, hears the stories, knows the circumstances.
He respects the heck out of his players.
There's Willie Harvey, a defensive end who played at a small community college in Arizona, has been out of work for eight months and is raising his 5-year-old son on his own.
There's Torrey Grissett, a speedy wide receiver from North Carolina who skipped college football but talked his way into Chad Ochocinco's offseason workout group and had a recent tryout with the Dolphins.
There's David St. Louis, a safety from Chaminade-Madonna High who played at Toledo but has come home to support his ailing mother. St. Louis plays to honor the memory of his cousin, Ruben Narcisse, a former Wyoming football standout who died in a car accident last year.
And, of course, there is Henderson, the man with the ridiculous commute.
Now 28, he made the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League a year ago but decided against playing because his day job provided more security. Still, something kept nagging at him, so when Culpepper called with a tryout offer, Henderson decided to give football one more shot.
"I didn't want to go through life saying 'I wish I had' or 'woulda, coulda, shoulda,"' Henderson says.
He realizes he's one of the lucky ones. He has a solid career to fall back on if the million-to-one shot of a job with a more established league doesn't come through.
And what did his bosses think when he told them his plan?
"At first they kind of smiled and said, 'What are you doing?"' Henderson says. "But they understand not many people get this opportunity."
A Jacksonville Jaguars scout asked for film from a recent Barracudas game, sending a ripple of excitement through the team.
Culpepper, a cousin of former Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper, often tells his players about Eric Swann, his former teammate with the Middle Georgia Heat Wave in something called the Minor League Football System.
Swann made it to the NFL. Maybe one of them can, too.
"It's a beautiful thing to be seen," says Michael Thompson, a wide receiver who last played five years ago at Morehouse.
As long as someone is watching, the dream survives.