Football Player Chooses Trains Over Jets

Onetime safety chose steady conductor job over Super Bowl shot

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    NEWSLETTERS

    You know job security is scarce when Keith Fitzhugh turns down an offer to join football's New York Jets for the steady paycheck of a train conductor's gig.

    Fitzhugh, who starred as a safety at Mississippi State, tried out for the Jets each of the last two years, but each time was cut before the season began, reported the Newark Star-Ledger. But when the Jets lost starting safety Jim Leonhard for the season and his backup was injured Monday night, the team's director of pro personnel, Brendan Prophett, called up Fitzhugh.

    Fitzhugh, now working as a conductor with Norfolk Southern railroad outside Atlanta, turned the offer down, even though he knows the Jets may have a shot at the Super Bowl.

    “I know I haven’t won a Super Bowl; it would be a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Fitzhugh told the newspaper by phone from Georgia. “But you only get one mom and one dad. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I’d rather be there for my mom and dad than go for a Super Bowl chance.”

    Fitzhugh has a stable job with health benefits, and a steady paycheck trumps chasing his gridiron dream. His father, Keith Sr., has had hip replacements and bad knees, and has been unable to work since his son left to play football at Mississippi State. He also lost a sister to the West Nile Virus, and now lives at home with his close-knit family.

    “That’s why I’m so strong about being around family now,” Fitzhugh said. “Life is short, and you never know what will happen. When I went through the period of time being unemployed, my family was there for me. I didn’t want to take a risk and lose everything again, especially when I have a great job like I do now.”

    Fitzhugh knew he could be cut yet again within weeks, and would be risking a longterm job.

    “He’s always been that kind of a kid,” Fitzhugh's mom, Meltonia, told the newspaper. “If you would ever know him and were to meet him, he is that kind of kid. He tries to help everybody. It wouldn’t be just for me, he would do it for anybody. I take it as a blessing.”

    Selected Reading: NJ.com, New York Jets, NFL.com.