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Bet on the NFL Yesterday, Jets director of pro personnel, Brendan Prophett, phoned Fitzhugh to ask if he wanted to play for the Jets. Sports betting fans should consider that the team needed a safety. James Ihedigbo was injured in Monday night’s loss against New England and Jim Leonhard is out for the season. Fitzhugh was a no brainer as a quick replacement. He was an undrafted rookie in 2009, and knew the system from different stints with the Jets. Fitzhugh, 24, did something unexpected—he said “no.”  Fitzhugh works as a train conductor with Norfolk Southern railroad, outside of Atlanta. He has a steady job and health benefits—something extremely important to him as he helps to support both his parents.

Keith’s father, Keith Fitzhugh Sr., is disabled and struggles to walk. He has not been able to work since his son left to play football at Mississippi State.  Fitzhugh lives at home and keeps his small family close—something of great importance since losing his younger sister, Brittany, to the West Nile Virus five years ago.

A mosquito bit her at age 11 and her body slowly deteriorated over the next three years.

Brittany developed symptoms of multiple sclerosis: she began losing her vision and hair, developed legions on the back of her brains and burst blood vessles on her neck.  The day before Keith’s first spring game at Mississippi State, Brittany passed away at age 14.

That’s why he is so strong about being around family now, Fitzhugh has said. He believes that life is short, and you never know what will happen. When he went through the period of time being unemployed, his family was there for me. He didn’t want to take a risk and lose everything again, especially when he has a great job now.

When the Jets called, Fitzhugh thanked them and respectfully declined. The risk he would take giving up his secure job was too great for the opportunity to play for possibly only a few weeks.  Fitzhugh knows the unsteady nature of pro football well. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jets in May 2009, was waived in August and added to the practice squad in September. In December of that year, he was signed to the Ravens’ active roster and spent the playoffs with them.

This past spring Baltimore withdrew its offer and Fitzhugh was left unemployed until the Jets signed him during training camp. He was cut 11 days later. That is when he started working with Norfolk Southern.  Fitzhugh has not ruled out playing in the NFL for good—he just did not think this opportunity made sense for him.


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