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NFL Football Player Rejects Team Offer, Keeps Job as Train Conductor

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"Many people will hear what Keith Fitzhugh did Tuesday and think he's certifiably insane."

Keith Fitzhugh chose operating trains over a shot at a Super Bowl.

The free-agent safety has turned down an offer to join the New York Jets to remain in his current job with Norfolk Southern Railroad because "I know every two weeks I'm getting a paycheck."

Jets coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday the team was looking to sign a safety after Jim Leonhard was lost for the season last week and James Ihedigbo suffered a leg injury in New York's 45-3 loss to New England on Monday night.

Fitzhugh, who had stints in camp with the Jets the past two years, says he was contacted Tuesday but declined. He says he needs the stability of a steady job to help care for his parents.

"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."

Had he accepted the offer, Fitzhugh knew the writing was already on the wall. At most he would be a walking insurance policy for the Jets; at worst he would be a casualty of the "business" side of the NFL. He's been that in the past. ESPN says he's played in only three preseason exhibitions for the Jets, while spending 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.

"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 the Associated Press. "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."

His father is reportedly disabled and can't work. According to ESPN, the NFL minimum salary is $325,000, or about $19,118 a week, while PayScale.com says the median salary for a Norfolk Southern conductor is about $49,000.

"Many people will hear what Keith Fitzhugh did Tuesday and think he's certifiably insane," ESPN blogger Tim Graham writes. "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 sounds like a character individual I'd want on my team -- or in my family."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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