Keith Fitzhugh picks trains over Jets

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
10:15
PM ET
Many people will hear what Keith Fitzhugh did Tuesday and think he's certifiably insane.

Not me. When I read why Fitzhugh turned down an offer to play safety for the New York Jets, it put a smile on my face.

Fitzhugh
Fitzhugh
The Jets reached out to Fitzhugh because he's familiar with Rex Ryan's system, having participated in the past two training camps, and they're desperate for help at safety. They lost Jim Leonhard to a broken shin on Friday and James Ihedigbo to ankle and knee injuries in Monday night's atrocity.

But Fitzhugh informed the Jets he wasn't interested. He wanted to keep his job as a train conductor.

"I told them I'm very thankful for the opportunity," Fitzhugh told Newark Star-Ledger reporter Jenny Vrentas. "But right now, being that it would be for just a couple weeks, I feel that I'd rather stay with a secure company and job, somewhere I know I could have long-term employment."

But what about experiencing the dream of playing in an NFL game? People would rob a train for that chance.

Fitzhugh has played three preseason exhibitions for the Jets. He spent much of last season on the Jets' practice squad. The Baltimore Ravens signed him to their 53-man roster in December, but he never got into an actual game.

Some things are more important than football. Fitzhugh wants to keep his career on track with Norfolk Southern railroad to care for his parents. His father is disabled and can't work.

"I know the Jets have a great opportunity of making the Super Bowl, and that's one dream that every child has is to play sports and make it to the Super Bowl or get to the World Series," Fitzhugh told Associated Press reporter Dennis Waszak Jr. "But there's a time when you have to think 'Hey, you've only got one mom and dad.' They won't be here forever, and while they're here, you've got to cherish that time."

The NFL minimum salary is $325,000, or about $19,118 a week. PayScale.com says the median salary for a Norfolk Southern conductor is roughly $49,000.

Fitzhugh majored in sports communications at Mississippi State.

"The kid has more heart than anybody I know," Fitzhugh's agent, Daniel Rose, told Vrentas. "This is his dream, to play. I don't think this is the last you've heard of Keith Fitzhugh."

I certainly hope not.

Fitzhugh sounds like a character individual I'd want on my team -- or in my family.

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