Safety turns down Jets to remain a train conductor

The Jets called safety Keith Fitzhugh on Tuesday, wondering if he’d like a job.  The Mississippi State graduate respectfully turned them down.

“I told them I’m very thankful for the opportunity,” Fitzhugh told Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger. “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.”

Fitzhugh, 24, has worked as a conductor for Norfolk Southern railroad since getting released by the Jets on September 4.  He enjoys the job and more importantly is responsible for supporting his parents.  His father is disabled and can’t work, so Fitzhugh made what must have been a tough decision to deny the Jets.

“Being unemployed is not a good feeling,” Fitzhugh said. “It’s a lonely feeling. I’d rather be somewhere safe and have a great foundation.”

The Jets plan to release receiver Laveranues Coles (again) to make room for a safety after reserve James Ihedigbo suffered a high ankle sprain.   Fitzhugh won’t be the guy because he has more important things to worry about than the Jets’ playoff push.

90 responses to “Safety turns down Jets to remain a train conductor

  1. Good head on the kids shoulders. Real life trumps sports anytime. If he goes unemployed who will take care of his parents? Maybe this is a true role model instead of some of the cry babies and criminals in sports.

  2. Used to work for Norfolk Southern…Conductors and Engineers can easily make 6 figures. Dangerous work sometimes…

  3. hahahhha…poor widdle jets, get burned all night, ask a guy they cut “please help us” and then get turned down. i hope they make the playoffs to lose from a blown coverage on the safety position. seriously, i would actually respect them if they hadn’t uttered one word about being superbowl bound before the season started, but how can you respect a team that plays with their mouths harder than on the field, its actually embarrassing.

  4. Speaking of someone keeping their day job, did anyone with the Jets check Nick Folks resume? Born in california, college at sunny univ. arizona and then the dallas cowboys.

    Good luck in December at Giants Stadium.

  5. Keith is a “Safety first, take the train, don’t fly, lots of time to get there….”, kind of guy.

  6. Fitzhugh says,

    ” I’d rather stay with a secure company”

    He saw the game last night and as a conductor for Norfolk Southern, he knows what a train wreck looks like.

    SHHHHHH Newark Jets !

  7. When I was a kid I often turned down offers to go outside and play football so I could be the conducter of my trains.

  8. James Harrison is bitching about having to pay $125,000 in fines (while making nearly a million dollars this year) while this kid can’t pursue his dream because he’s too busy supporting his parents.

    Maybe those fans who were offering to offset Harrison’s fines should take up a collection instead for Fitzhugh’s family, and let this kid play football.

  9. Ouch.. Yea a very hard decision.. I have to wonder if this maybe might have been the wrong one though.. The what if’s of future opportunities in the NFL could be endless..

  10. I understand he’s taking what’s known over what isn’t, but Rookie minimum wage is 310k for 2010. That’s roughly 20k per game.
    On payscale your average conductor makes anwheres from 40-70k. So if he’s on the team for 4 weeks he makes more then he makes in a year.
    And if he sticks he might have a chance to make even more.
    He still has the chance to go unemployed. He’d be the first one cut if there were layoffs.

  11. Heck of a decision. Even if he impressed for 4 games and they liked him, the NFL is shut down next year. That is a true role model for kids.

  12. No wonder he’s no longer a football player–he’s way too smart.

    What an admirable and responsible thing to do–stay at a steady job and support your famiy. This guy is a role model.

  13. he is exactly right. once the other guys come back he will be cut to the street and Norfolk Southern railroad isnt going to hire him back…….

    PLUS… unstoppable just came out making him a Hero! duh

  14. Good for him to make the responsible decision and not be a pawn for a team that only has 4 games left before they’re done for the year. Very impressive….

  15. Surely, the minimum NFL salary could have been higher than what he’s making now as a train conductor. In any case, this must have been a really tough decision for him. Knowing that an NFL players’ career is very short and the likely potential of not being able to walk normally afterwards, he made a very mature decision. Given the state of the economy starting in 2008, you have to take a job where you can take it. I’m sure those train jobs don’t open up very often, and they have fantastic benefits.

  16. While admirable, that he wants a stable, long-term (nothing’s guaranteed) job to support his ailing parents – did he skip Econ class?

    Rookie minimum salary=$325,000, which is $20,312 per game. Unless the Jets told him it would be a 1 or 2 game only signing he would make more in 4 weeks than he would all year with the RR company. Considering the Jets may make the playoffs there would be an extra bonus check, too.

  17. Im hoping he atleast discussed with his employer whether or not he could take a leave of absence. I am going to assume he did and they said they couldnt hold the job, if so he probably made the right choice.

  18. How much were the Jets offering him? Doubt an entry level train conductor is making 6 figures. Most guys are shortsighted but this guy is looking to far down the road and missing what is right in front of him.

  19. Sounds like a smart, humble, sincere young man.

    Good for Keith Fitzhugh. The Jest don’t deserve him.

  20. Commendable decision, but isn’t a couple weeks’ worth of NFL league minimum still enough that a train conductor could afford to take some time to find a new job?

  21. Responsible but I can’t help but wonder if the monetary compensation might have been worth it, say he gets $10,000 dollars a game for the rest of the season that’s $40,000 which is probably around his yearly salary currently, add playoffs and he’s looking at $50000 for 5 weeks of work and if he plays well a good shot at more next year. I appreciate and respect it but idk

  22. Everybody likes to complain about spoiled multimillion dollar athletes. But there’s a lot of guys like this– and guys who could be in this position in a week or a month or a year.

    (Incidentally, that’s why it always infuriated me that the baseball players’ union fought tooth and nail to prevent drug testing– if I were in a situation like Fitzhugh’s in training camp, I may well have used a drug to give me an advantage. Pushing against testing was directly creating incentives for drug use that’s hazardous to players’ long-term health).

    Interesting story, thanks for highlighting it.

  23. Why doesn’t he just take a leave of absence? What a dummy.

    Have you ever tried taking a leave of absence from a job you’ve been at for 3 months?

    Think man.

  24. For everyone making the “he’d make twice as much in 2 games in the NFL as he would as a conductor” argument:

    You have to consider the value of steady employment.

    This is probably a union job that is as stable as an NFL job is unstable. Many of our grandparents founded our families with jobs like these. Yesterday’s college-grad conductors are today’s upper mgmt.

    Personally, I think both choices are great opportunities. Nothing wrong with the railroad job, but there’s also no chance of having a breakthrough season and banking $20M. He’s risk-averse. Big deal. Good luck to him.

  25. aasukisuki, sad and pathetic that you bring up James Harrison when everyone else is complimenting this guy.

  26. This is a tough one. 20k per game is a lot of moneybut how long can you live on $80,000 (pre-tax) supporting you and two other poeple? He can always try out for teams next year (if there is even a season). or the UFL. Tough but probably the right move unless the Jets were gonna gurantee him at least a spot on next years practice squad, which would never happen.

  27. The right move by him. With what this kid has at stake, he can’t fool around and if the Jet’s see another guy come along that they like, who’s to say they wouldn’t cut him after only a week? Good for him and I wish him and his folks the best.

  28. He can’t take a month off from work? Prorated minimum NFL salary for a month has to be more than the annual salary for a train conductor.

  29. League minimum contract for four games has got to be way less than he clears in a year as a conductor.

  30. #
    rectumnearlykilledem says: Dec 7, 2010 4:47 PM

    Why would he want to be part of this joke of a franchise? He’d rather be conduct the 4:53 train than be part of the 45-3 train wreck. Smart move.
    ***************************************

    Your name says it all. It proves what you think with.

  31. I came to rip on the Jets after last nights game and then this kid turning them down. What a great day to hate the Jets. Anyway it appears as though hundreds of others beat me to the punch. So with that I will say the train wrecks comment was hilarious.

  32. #
    pkrjones says: Dec 7, 2010 5:02 PM

    While admirable, that he wants a stable, long-term (nothing’s guaranteed) job to support his ailing parents – did he skip Econ class?

    Rookie minimum salary=$325,000, which is $20,312 per game. Unless the Jets told him it would be a 1 or 2 game only signing he would make more in 4 weeks than he would all year with the RR company. Considering the Jets may make the playoffs there would be an extra bonus check, too.
    ___________________________
    Stop and think about that for a moment. If you’re the RR company, are you going to rehire someone who is going to jump ship every time a team came at him with a short-term offer? If he abandons his current job it will be gone. While he’d clearly make more per week if he accepted their offer, he’d also be the first in line to get cut if the Jets needed to make a roster move or if the other safety got better. The odds of him winning a permanent (or as permanent as the NFL gets) job from this opportunity under these circumstances is very low. The odds of him permanently losing a very well paying job if he accepted the Jets’ offer is very high. Seems to me this kid’s grasp of Econ is pretty good (and I have a degree in Economics). It’s just that he’s thinking long-term while you’re thinking short-term.

  33. You guys asking about a leave of absence – that only happens if the employer OKs it. There are probably 150 guys waiting to snap up that job. Hats off to this kid. We need more, many more, like him in the NFL.

  34. Why doesn’t he just take a leave of absence? What a dummy.

    It’s called quitting. Then in four weeks he’s on unemployment. Smart of him to stay where he is.

  35. Wow, I’m impressed! Sounds like a good kid with tough decisions he’s had to make. I truly hope things work out for this guy.

  36. This poor guy obviously hasn’t worked long for NS. Depending on where he’s working he would likely make more in those few weeks with the Jets than he’ll make in his first five years with NS. If they were as great a company as he thinks they’d give him an unpaid leave of absence to play out the season since he’ll probably get laid off in January for several months anyway.

  37. Good for him
    the jets could cut him next week and then he is out of work

    He is thinking long term
    Union Job
    Pay check every week
    Health Ins.

    And as a conductor he keeps the train on track

    After last night the jets sure could use his skill set

    The jets were exposed for the team they really are a also ran in the NFL

  38. Finally an (ex) football player gives an intelligent interview. Thank you.

    It sounds like he even got his diploma. Good for him.

  39. aasukisuki says:
    Dec 7, 2010 4:48 PM
    James Harrison is bitching about having to pay $125,000 in fines (while making nearly a million dollars this year) while this kid can’t pursue his dream because he’s too busy supporting his parents.

    Maybe those fans who were offering to offset Harrison’s fines should take up a collection instead for Fitzhugh’s family, and let this kid play football.
    ————————————————–

    Indeed. Well said.

  40. I work in the railroad industry, so here are some facts for people.

    Average conductor salary for NS – $50,000/year., so the pay is less than he’d make in the NFL for 4 weeks. BUT. The railroad industry is VERY tough to get into right now. Railroads are still reeling from the economy, so jobs are scarce, and there are a lot of applicants. Especially at a Class I like NS.

    Very important to the railroad industry is seniority. The more senior the employee, the better jobs they get – they can pick their routes, freight, power (locmotives), etc. And the longer you’re there, the more you work your way up. Railroads are 100% an industry where you start at the bottom (conductor) and work up. The next step up from conductor would be to get engineer certified. An NS engineer makes $75,000/year. BIG step up.

    And more than that, railroad employees don’t get social security or regular retirement – they get railroad retirement benefits, which are the BEST retirement benefits in the entire US. Plus health, and union support.

    Working for a Class I railroad like NS is a premier gig, and thanks to the current congress and the stimulus, rail freight and traffic is rapidly increasing, so it really is one of the most secure jobs this guy could have.

    He made the smart call.

  41. Smart move on his part, there are more important things than games, hopes and dreams. Sometimes reality doesn’t afford you those luxuries.

  42. Smart guy. Best of luck to him and his family.

    I’ve turned them down as well. I’d rather do mature porn.

  43. NS RR should give the kid a few weeks off to play a month in the NFL. Probably going to be cut at the end of the season, but maybe he plays lights out and finds himself with a decent career. OR…he knows he doesn’t have the chops to make it and understands he is better off where he is.

  44. A lot of commenters here obviously have never worked a day in their lives. Do any of you here even shave?

  45. Kudos Mr. Fitzhugh,

    Your parents must be very proud. They apparently reared one heck of a young man!

  46. For those of you calling this guy dumb, check out what a train engineer makes in a year. It’s funny people think that free agent safety that’s being picked up in week 14 is gonna make Peyton Manning or Adrian Peterson money. Get real and think about it. This guy made a good move.

  47. I bet you if this receives enough publicity they just might do it…

    And as a million others have said, “Bravo”. He understands that he can’t trade a potential lifetime worth of income for a few fat checks. He’s smarter than I was at his age.

  48. I bet he makes $70K and he’ll be set for a long time with the money getting thrown at railroads by Uncle Sam. Good for you kid, do right by your family.

  49. people blasting the kid don’t relaize that the insurance will be tough to pay for after the season and supporting his parents could be really expensive. he made the right call. every so often some kid does the right thing for the right reason and we have some chuckleheads blasting him.

  50. They aren’t going to hold the train job open for him, and it may have been hard to get that job in the first place. It’s not worth it for temporary $$$. We’re not talking $5 million here.

  51. Great kid. Better to have a steady job that 4 weeks of being beaten up and possibly injured or paralyzed. Anyone think of that? What if something like that happened to him? Then where would he and his folks be. He made the right decision.

  52. I actually am a conductor for NS. In 7 years I have been laid off one time. There are no conductors making less than 60K in our area. We have a few over $100 K. The Engineers are all over 80K. Yes he would make 80k over the next 4 weeks with the Jets, but I guantee NS will not give a leave of absence. We are incredibly short handed. They train you for 6 months before you are qualified to work by yourself. It really takes a couple of years to get good at the job. They aren’t gonna let you come and go as you please. He’s at a job that will take him into the future with better benefits than you can get anywhere else. Not the glamourous choice, but certainly a stable choice.

  53. You see the core of the problem with this country in so many of these posts……Trade short term cash for long term stability. Yeah he gets(maybe) 4-6 games…then what? Season over, job gone, and not many jobs out there right now in case you hadn’t noticed. Already didn’t make the team once, think there may be a reason?

    Short term, immediate gratification over long term vision and planning(like taking that 1% teaser mortgage on the 350K house when you make 30K/yr) has driven thins country nearly into the ground. Great call kid. Wise beyond his years.

  54. G-d bless him & his family! It is so inspiring to know that there are still people in this world with a proper work ethic & sense of responsibility!!!

  55. Great decision. Who would want to live in NYC anyway. The boorish, shallow, ignorant people who nearly destroyed the world financial system are enough to make me vomit. They should dome Manhattan and call in the NYC Mall because that’s all it really is. What has NYC ever done for the world other than take from it?

  56. Great move for the kid. To sign now, quit his job and have no security doesn’t sound like a thing that he was willing to subject himself or his family to. The kid’s got a great head on his shoulders. I’m sure if this was the beginning of the season and he had made the opening day roster he would be playing football now, but signing after the first game means a team can cut you at any time. They can sign you on Tuesday and cut you on Saturday before playing a game. Zero security. Now this is a role model, because it must have been extremely difficult to turn down an opportunity like this.

  57. “Mom and Dad, you’ve done so much for me. You’ve supported me and taken care of me. You got me to practice and stayed on top of me with my grades.”

    And I bet he doesn’t call in sick with a hangover. Of course the railroad would be much more interested in getting him help for that than the NFL.

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