VP of Football Operations Mark Hatley dies

Remembering Mark Hatley as a man who loved his friends, his family and football, Packer GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman issued a statement Tuesday night following the death of the team's vice president of football operations. Hatley, 54, died at his home in Green Bay. The cause of death is not known.<P>

"Today, the Green Bay Packers not only lost a valuable member of its team but also a trusted and loyal friend," Sherman said in a statement he read at team headquarters late Tuesday.

"Mark Hatley loves his family, he loved his friends and he loved football. "He lived each day completely, filling each with his enthusiasm and passion for life and those in it. We should all be so fortunate to live like he did. He will be missed by many."

Sherman did not take questions.

Hatley has been with the Packer organiztion since May 17, 2001. As VP of football operations, he was second in command behind Sherman on personnel matters in Green Bay, where he was responsible for overseeing the team's scouting efforts.

The tragic news casts a pall over two celebrated Packer summer staples: the annual stockholders' meeting set for Wednesday, and the opening of training camp on Friday.

The fruits of Hatley's labors will be evident in both events, as Hatley was known as a tireless worker. He put in countless hours both on the road and in the film room, involved in every facet of the scouting process.

Sherman had these comments on his right-hand man prior to the 2003 season:

"I wanted to find someone who was a tireless worker and has a true passion for football. I wanted to find someone who could not only fit into our present structure and work cohesively with our current personnel staff, but also add to the chemistry, the focus and the commitment of that department. Lastly, I wanted someone who shared with me a tremendous respect for the Green Bay Packers and their tradition ... someone who had a vision and a desire to contribute to the future. I met these objectives in Mark Hatley."

Previously Hatley served as vice president for player personnel with the Chicago Bears from 1997-2001. His Chicago tenure included drafting two rookies of the year back-to-back - Brian Urlacher in 2000 and Anthony Thomas in 2001.

"We were fortunate to have Mark as a part of our team," longtime Chicago Bears President Ted Phillips said in a statement issued by the team Tuesday.

"The Bears, and the rest of the NFL, have lost a wonderful friend," Phillips said.

Hatley also spent 10 years with the Kansas City Chiefs (1987-97). A native of Borger, Texas, Hatley played linebacker at Oklahoma State, leading the Cowboys in tackles in 1971 before beginning his coaching career at OSU from 1973-'75. He also worked at Tulsa, Texas Christian and Baylor before joining the New Orleans Saints' coaching staff in 1984.

Hatley's agent, Bob LaMonte, said he received a call from coach and general manager Mike Sherman on Tuesday morning informing him of Hatley's death overnight. LaMonte told the Associated Press that he had just seen Hatley on Monday when he was in Green Bay to meet with Sherman.

"He was going golfing. He was fine," LaMonte said of Hatley.

"Mark was a consummate professional," LaMonte said. "Everywhere he went he had great success. He's been terrific at his job and was just a fantastic individual. You'll never meet a better guy."

Hatley is survived by his wife, Claudia; daughter, Eliza, her husband Jason Wilkerson, and two grandsons. Tuesday was the Hatleys'30th wedding anniversary.

"He had just sent her flowers to Tulsa (Okla.) where they live in the off-season," LaMonte told the AP, referring to Mark and Claudia Hatley's anniversary. "She doesn't come up for training camp."

No funeral arrangements have been announced.

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