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Keith Fitzhugh turns down one once-in-a-lifetime chance for another

December 8, 2010 |  9:22 am

Fitzhugh_300 Keith Fitzhugh has spent much of the last two years trying to break into the NFL. But after being cut by the New York Jets for a third time earlier this year, he found work as a railroad conductor.

This week, the Jets made an offer to the free agent safety to join them as they make a run toward the playoffs and a possible Super Bowl berth.

He turned them down.

“I've got something now where I know every two weeks I'm getting a paycheck,” Fitzhugh said. “That's what helps out the most right now. I don't knock the Jets at all. I highly appreciate them.”

Fitzhugh works for Northern Southern Railroad outside of Atlanta, where his parents live. His father, Keith Sr., is disabled and unable to work, and his mother, Meltonia, has had a hard time making ends meet.

With injuries to Jim Leonhard and James Ihedigbo, the 7-3 Jets needed help at safety and gave Fitzhugh a call.  But he decided to stay near his parents and continue to provide them with a steady paycheck, rather than risk getting cut again and being out of work.

“I know I haven’t won a Super Bowl; it would be a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Fitzhugh said. “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.”

Fitzhugh's decision was first reported by the Star-Ledger of Newark.

“It's tough because I would love to say, ‘Hey, I'm going to go out there and get it again,' but it's about a risk,” he said. “Is it the end of my NFL career forever? I don't know. This is what I need to do right now.”

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-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Keith Fitzhugh with the Jets during a 2009 preseason game. Credit: Bill Kostroun / Associated Press

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