Paul Hatchett, a standout high school running back at Minneapolis Central who led North Dakota State to a pair of national football titles in the mid-1960s, died Monday at the age of 64 in Savanah, Ga., according to his sister, Laurel Hatchett.
Paul Hatchett died during a bicycle ride, Laurel said. The family was awaiting word on the exact cause of death.
Hatchett was voted Minneapolis City Conference most valuable player in 1965 while leading a powerhouse Central team. He went to North Dakota State, rushing for 2,021 yards in 18 regular-season games during his two years as a starter, helping the Bison win College Division national titles in 1968 and ’69.
He virtually vanished after the team’s final game in 1969, a victory over Montana in the Camellia Bowl.
“Oh, man, he was headed for the pros,’’ said Gregory L. Washington, Hatchett’s longtime friend and former Central teammate.
Instead, Hatchett headed toward a life of crime that saw him arrested dozens of times in Minnesota, Florida and Georgia. Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse wrote in 2006 about a recent story by Jeff Kolpack of the Forum in Fargo-Moorhead where the paper tried in vain to locate Hatchett.
Washington said he had communicated with Hatchett in recent years and read the column, but figured Paul wanted to keep his whereabouts, and problems, to himself. But on Tuesday, Washington called the newspaper, saying it was time to let Hatchett’s friends know of his demise.
“I didn’t want his legacy to die,’’ Washington said. “He was just a miraculous running back. Now that he’s passed away, I didn’t want his friends to forget about him.’’