Every week during the season I present an award to an "Unsung Hero" coach in the name of Chip Myers, a former NFL coach who died suddenly. He was a friend of mine and the epitome of what an NFL assistant coach should be -- an unselfish, tireless worker.
Well, another close friend of mine passed away -- Mark Hatley the vice president for personnel with the Green Bay Packers. Mark offered me the position of pro personnel director when he took over the leadership of the Chicago Bears a few years ago, and for that I will always be grateful. He was to personnel work and front-office people what Myers was to coaching ... the best!
Mark and I spent a few hours talking at the owners meetings this past spring in Florida, and he was as always a humble, hard worker that never said a bad word about anyone. He was always looking for one kind of NFL player; a man who had passion for the game.
My favorite story about Mark was as I left the New York Jets he called me and asked, "Is there anyone the Jets will cut that you think is my kind of player?" I told him if an unknown center named Casey Wiegmann comes free, he's your kind of player. A tough, undersized athlete with a competitive side to him. When Wiegmann was on the street, Mark grabbed him and he thanked me 100 times for the heads up.
Mark was a team player in a world full of individuals. What makes the NFL so successful is not the marketing plans, the television contracts and all the glitz. It's people like Mark who care about the game, the competitive spirit, the search for talent for players who play it well. He was not a guy hanging around the cameras and the press. As my friend Peter King described, he was a good guy, or as many other NFL people said, he was a solid football man.
Mark Hatley may never be recognized as a star of the NFL, but he never tried be a star. He was a worker, a film grader, went to college campuses to discover talent, a guy who studied personalities and found ways to best contribute to the team he was with. Mark never really campaigned for jobs or promotions. Smart people found him because of his reputation. I'm sure his close friend Rick Spielman in Miami, like myself, is just devastated by the loss. He will be missed by the people who saw the game the same way he did.
To his wife, Claudia, and his daughter, Eliza, we all feel the pain of your loss. To the Packers and coach Mike Sherman, I don't have to tell you about the loss to the club. You know how hard Mark worked and how loyal he was to his team. To those who aspire to be successful in the NFL or any other profession, find out all you can about this humble man, whose work speaks for him.
There are a whole lot of NFL players past and present who owe their careers to Mark Hatley. He found you late at night in a film room when everyone had already gone home and he gave you a chance ... a chance to play in the NFL. He could tell you would make the most of an opportunity after he saw the kind of heart you played with on videotape. Think of him when you count your blessings.