On Monday night, the Jets were pulverized by hated rivals the New England UGG Spokesmen in their worst performance of the season. What was initially billed as the battle for AFC supremacy turned into a Foxboro Massacre as tackles were routinely missed, the offense was non-existent and defense players went down with injuries. And proving how much bad luck the Jets seem to be having right now, even the journeyman safety they offered a roster spot to gracefully rejected them.
The player in question, Keith Fitzhugh, was an undrafted rookie in 2009 who spent time on the team's practice squad last year and in training camp with them this year. The Jets front office called him yesterday afternoon to offer the spot, having lost two safety's to injury already this season. Of course, Fitzhugh didn't reject the team because of their poor play on Monday. As he told the NJ Star-Ledger, he has a stable job with health benefits as a conductor with Norfolk Southern railroad outside Atlanta, and he is the breadwinner in the family now:
"I know I haven’t won a Super Bowl; it would be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. 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 than go for a Super Bowl chance...Life is short, and you never know what will happen. When I went through the period of time being unemployed, my family was there for me. I didn’t want to take a risk and lose everything again, especially when I have a great job like I do now.”
Fitzhugh's father had hip replacements and bad knees, is disabled, and ha been unable to work for years. His younger sister died at age 14 because of West Nile Virus. As NBC points out, Fitzhugh's story points to the hardships of life in the margins of the NFL: "We forget sometimes how short professional sports careers tend to be on average because all of the focus goes to the guys who make big money over long careers...[their] concerns -- health insurance, financial security and the like -- are exactly the same as they are for most of the rest of us."