Semi-pro players balance family, work and football

Written By: Josh Francis | 9:32 am, Jun. 30, 2015

Taurean Smith of the Fargo Invaders pulls in a pass for a touchdown late in the second quarter of the Saturday, June 27, 2015, game against the Fighting Orioles played at Sid Cichy Stadium at Shanley High School.
Dave Wallis / The Forum

Taurean Smith of the Fargo Invaders pulls in a pass for a touchdown late in the second quarter of the Saturday, June 27, 2015, game against the Fighting Orioles played at Sid Cichy Stadium at Shanley High School. Dave Wallis / The Forum

FARGO-The Fargo Invaders’ success last season was not only because of the team’s talent, but its dedication from a group of more than 50 volunteer players, coaches and managers.

Kevin Irby drives from Grand Forks to Fargo on Fridays and Saturdays to play football for the area’s semi-professional football team that was founded last year. Irby, like many of his teammates, sacrifices a lot of time to play football without getting paid.

Irby, originally from Columbus, Ga., has three kids and another on the way, but he manages to balance his time so he spends time with his wife and kids, works part time, all while continuing to play the game he loves.

“I got pretty much a set schedule,” Irby said. “When I get off work, I’ll go train, hit the gym then hit the field and I’ll go home and then, like that, I’m dad again.”

Irby played college football at Auburn University for a year but eventually ended up at Mayville State University in Mayville, N.D. He started playing for the Invaders last season, and was the team’s leading receiver during its championship run.

Irby said it can be challenging commuting to practices and games from Grand Forks, which is about an hour away. Irby says when the team travels, he’ll drive to Fargo, take the bus to the game and stay with one of his teammates in Fargo overnight. Practices and home games are a different story, though.

“For home games, it’s a little bit more challenging because I don’t like the fact that I gotta drive here then drive back then tomorrow comes and I gotta drive there and drive back again,” Irby said. “But, I love football, I’m trying to get to the next level, so this seems like a step, so I’m willing to sacrifice it.

It’s worth it, because I love the game,” Irby added. His kids also join him at the games and he brings them to practices.

Nate King is more than just a player on the Invaders.

King, a Moorhead resident, is the team’s new general manager this season, he works full time, has a 4-year-old daughter, an active wife, and he plays football. Time is thin, he said, but he makes it work.

“There’s times where it’s overwhelming,” King said. “I believe that the Invaders are going to be around for a long time and what we’re doing now is the groundwork and there’s going to be a lot of time put into it.

Once we are around for a couple years and the public knows about us, it’s going to be a lot easier on the players and on the board because it’s going to be easier because everyone’s got their routines down.”

King devotes several hours on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays to the team, he said.

Some players on the team are lucky. The summer is easier for them to balance their schedules.

West Fargo resident Chad McQuade said his job in the cattle business is busiest in the fall and winter.

“I’m just lucky in the summer that my job gets really slow,” McQuade said.

The Invaders are having a more modest season this year. They went 8-2 last year, but are currently 4-3. Saturday night’s game against the Mid America Fighting Orioles of Osseo, Minn., was delayed due to storms in the Fargo-Moorhead area, and was still in progress when The Forum went to press.The team will play two more games, one more away game and one more home game against the Minnesota Brawlers (New Ulm, Minn.) at Sid Cichy Stadium in Fargo on July 18 at 7 p.m.