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Kolpack: Biological sons of former Bison football star take trip down memory lane

Three brothers find evidence of what life was like for Paul Hatchett in the 1960s

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From left, Thomas Moede, Jonathan Wright and Jimmie Lee Bishop point to their biological father, Paul Hatchett, on the wall of All Americans at the old North Dakota State football locker room under the north stands at Dacotah Field.
Jeff Kolpack / The Forum
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Fargo

It’s been less than a year since Jimmie Lee Bishop, Jonathan Wright and Thomas Moede discovered that they share the same biological father, an unexpected bringing together of brothers that has been nothing short of sensational.

They laugh, talk and hang around each other like they’ve been doing it for years. It makes a person wonder if the genes inside each one of them have some sort of sensory power. Whatever the case, the three made a trip to Fargo earlier this month to learn more about their biological father — former North Dakota State running back Paul Hatchett.

They wanted to get a sense of what college was like for him from 1967-69. Acknowledging Paul lived a life that included bad decisions, they wanted to see what the good was all about for him in Fargo.

They needed a tour guide, which was me . I wrote, after all, a couple of stories in the spring detailing how they came about their union through the website BirthParentFinder.com. It was a trip down memory lane. For all of us.

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We began with the present at the NDSU coaches office on the second floor of Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. The three got to touch the 1968 and 1969 national championship trophies, the same hardware that Hatchett could have touched following College Division bowl victories that assured the No. 1-ranked Bison of a national title.

They saw the installation of new turf in the dome, certainly a world away from the natural grass of the 1960s at old Dacotah Field. About a half hour later, the late 1960s and 2022 collided head on.

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From left, Jonathan Wright, Thomas Moede and Jimmie Lee Bishop hold the 1968 and 1969 North Dakota State national title trophies.
Jeff Kolpack / The Forum

We got a look at what’s left of the old NDSU football locker room under the north stands at Dacotah. Two very real momentos of Hatchett remain to this day: his name on the ceiling alongside every other Bison All-American until 1993 when the team moved into the Fargodome and the No. 20 locker (Hatchett’s number) that was still in one of the adjacent rooms.

They paused and stared at the metal locker like it was some sort of memorial.

The last time I had been in that locker room was over 10 years ago when doing a story on the old “Snorty” logo the players touched before heading onto the field. Before that was probably on the visitor side of the locker room when, as a Forum intern in the 1980s, sports editor Curt Monson made me do a story on a Northern Colorado punt returner who fumbled in the fourth quarter and cost the Bears the game.

The real evidence for the brothers came later at the NDSU Archives building, cleverly hidden next to Interstate 29 away from campus. Three yearbooks from 1967, ‘68 and ‘69 revealed photos of Hatchett never seen before. Another couple folders of photos showed a few other snapshots of No. 20 making plays in a Bison uniform.

“This is great man cave stuff,” one of the brothers said.

We finished the day at The Forum, where I showed them all the clippings that were in Hatchett’s file in the Forum library. A couple were not about football, but rather run-ins with law enforcement in the Twin Cities.

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They took cell phone photos of every article, including those.

It was some trip for the three, not just to Fargo but the overall experience. Wright came from Guam, where he teaches English and video. Moede came from Atlanta, where he is a teacher and a coach. Bishop lives in the Twin Cities.

Hatchett will forever be in the Bison record book. The three will forever remain bonded, even if it took over 50 years for them to discover each other.

A few hours in Fargo helped connect the late 1960s to 2022.

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From left, Jonathan Wright, Jimmie Lee Bishop and Thomas Moede sift through old North Dakota State yearbooks for photos of their biological father, Paul Hatchett.
Jeff Kolpack / The Forum
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Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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