Football season is long over. The New York Jets never made it to the Super Bowl. National Football League players are locked out by their owners. The upcoming football season could be in jeopardy.
And how about Norfolk Southern conductor and former Jets defensive back Keith Fitzhugh, who last fall turned down a Jets’ offer to return to the team in favor or being a conductor?
“I’m so happy,” Fitzhugh, age 24, recently told The Associated Press. “It turned out just right for me.”
When we previously visited with Fitzhugh last fall, he had spurned the Jets’ offer and was in conductor training. Many called his decision to stay with NS “crazy.”
Job security and a steady income were and are more important to Fitzhugh, especially in an economy where jobs are scarce and good benefits even more scarce.
Indeed, some of his former – and now locked-out – NFL teammates, have asked Fitzhugh if they could get him a similar job on Norfolk Southern, reported the Associated Press. “They’re, like, ‘Hey, Keith, if this doesn’t work out for me …’ and I just tell them, ‘Just go ahead and apply, just like I did,’” he told the Associated Press.
“No big-name guys,” Fitzhugh told the Associated Press, “but guys who are straddling that line like I was. When they hear about what I do, it’s kind of exciting to them, too, because you turn into a kid all over again. You’re riding a train that has 4,000 or 5,000 horsepower and you really can get into the thrill of it. It’s a fun job, man.”
Fitzhugh is now a full-time conductor and member of UTU Local 511 in Atlanta, and most often working a run between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn. He resides in Hampton, Ga.
Could Fitzhugh eventually return to the NFL? He told the Associated Press that NS officials promised him a leave of absence if another opportunity presented itself. “I’m still young and I keep my body in shape,” he told the Associated Press. “I don’t know if the opportunity will ever come with this lockout, but I can’t say yay or nay. You never know who might call me and give me an opportunity.”
“For me, having job security is important,” Fitzhugh told the UTU News last fall when he made the decision to stay with NS. “I was released three times [twice by the Jets, once by the Baltimore Ravens]. There is no job security [in the National Football League]. Why risk losing a good job with Norfolk Southern? I have buddies with two degrees who can’t find a job.
“Working for Norfolk Southern is one of the best prestigious jobs you can have,” Fitzhugh told the UTU News last fall. “I have to look out for what’s best for me and my family. I think riding on a locomotive is one of the coolest things.”