December 8, 2010


Former Jets safety Keith Fitzhugh chooses family over football (Jenny Vrentas, 12/07/10, The Star-Ledger)

“I know I haven’t won a Super Bowl; it would be a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Fitzhugh said by phone from Georgia yesterday. “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, as a conductor with Norfolk Southern railroad outside Atlanta. Work involves trips to Chattanooga, Tenn., and back, building trains in the yard or being on call through the night.

It’s important for him to have a steady stream of income -- more often than not elusive in the NFL -- because his father is disabled and cannot work. Keith Fitzhugh, Sr., has had hip replacements and bad knees, and struggles to walk. He has been unable to work since his son left to play football at Mississippi State.

Fitzhugh lives at home and helps support a family that is not big, but very close-knit, particularly since losing his younger sister, Brittany, to the West Nile Virus five years ago. She was bitten by a mosquito when she was 11, and her condition slowly deteriorated as if she had multiple sclerosis: she began losing her vision and hair, developed lesions on the back of her brain and burst blood through her neck.

She passed away at age 14, the day before Fitzhugh played his first spring game at Mississippi State.

“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 told the Jets he was very thankful for the opportunity they extended. But to him, the risk was too great: he might only be on the roster for a couple of weeks, or even less, and as a result would give up the railroad job that can offer him long-term employment.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 8, 2010 3:05 PM
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