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Keith Fitzhugh: A Breath of Fresh Air

December 10, 2010

Every now and then I have a photo assignment that ends up blessing me much more than just a good picture and a paycheck. The story on Keith Fitzhugh warmed my heart.

Keith is the young man from Hampton, Georgia who turned down a “once in a lifetime” offer to rejoin the New York Jets, opting instead to remain on his three-month-old job as a conductor for the Norfolk and Southern Railroad.

Keith loves trains and he loves football, but he loves his family more. They’re the real reason he said ‘no thanks’ to the Jets’ offer, though he would still love to play football with them some day. He played football for Mississippi State and signed on with Jets  as an undrafted free agent, but was released by the Jets earlier this year. They called Tuesday and invited him back.

“Life is short, and you never know what will happen. I was unemployed for a while and my family was there for me. My dad is disabled now and can’t work. I need to stay close to family and help care for them. Now I have a job I love with good benefits. I haven’t won a Super Bowl, and yeah, it would be great to do that — a ‘once in a lifetime’ chance. But you only get one mom and dad. I’d rather be there for them.”

He now has a steady job, though it pays less than an NFL paycheck. A lot less. “Money isn’t everything, and family counts for a lot more than money and fame,” he said. The NFL job might only have been for a brief while.  Keith didn’t want to give up a job he loved just for a few weeks in the spotlight.

No ego. Lots of humility, the real kind. He jokes around with his pastor and is the kind of young man I think many people hope other young men would try to emulate.

There were comments made — from a jaded sportswriter, I’m sure — that this was just a ploy to squeeze the Jets for more money and a better contract.

To the sportswriter, I would say this: You’re flat wrong about Keith.  I was there. I watched him interact with people in the midst of a media frenzy. There’s no ploy, no tactics. Keith is just who he is: a young man who loves God, loves his family, and has his priorities in the right place.

And he loves trains.


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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 10, 2010 1:40 pm

    Great piece. Well done and very inspiring.

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