The shipping and sports worlds have long been intertwined — you could field some pretty good teams from the ranks of vice presidents at shipping and logistics companies — but generally the transportation career starts only after the athletic feats are exhausted.
That’s why it’s so surprising that Keith Fitzhugh, a onetime standout player at Mississsippi State drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, turned down an offer from the New York Jets to stay with his current employer, Norfolk Southern Railroad.
The Jets have been trying to overcome injuries late in the season, as teams do in the National Football League, by bringing back players cut during training camp. Fitzhugh was one of those late roster cuts this year, the third time the Jets have cut him, and they tried to bring him back for the last four games of the season with an offer of $100,000.
But Fitzhugh, who is 24, already has a job as a conductor trainee and told the Jets he’s not giving up the seniority he’s earned and the chance to complete his probationary period in January.
That sounds like a startling choice, unless you’ve been around retired pro football players (trust me, railroad conductors walk much better than football players after an equivalent time time on the job). But it makes sense when you look at Fitzhugh’s background, the trials life has put him through and the character he has developed, in this wonderful piece by Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick.
The NFL’s loss is the railroad industry’s gain, and the United Transportation Union proudly notes Fitzhugh is on schedule to become a full member of UTU Local 511.
He told the UTU that working at NS “is one of the best prestigious jobs you can have.”
The only thing is, the competition comes at you like a freight train.