Jason Hatcher grew up in a family with 11 siblings, including stepbrothers and stepsisters.
But the Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle has another brother he knew nothing about for most of his life.
Jason has yet to meet Michael Hatcher, who lives in Fort Worth. They have traded text messages and Facebook posts for months, a precursor to a planned meeting sometime later this week.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll share a hug of brotherly love. I don’t know what we’ll talk about,” Jason said after a minicamp practice last week at Valley Ranch. “I don’t think it’s right to go back and start from Day One. I think you’ve just got to pick up and go from here. We’re both grown. We’re established. We’ve just got to build a relationship from here.”
Jason, 30, approached the media with his story in hopes of inspiring others from single-parent homes. Both he and Michael, an ordained minister who is a mission pastor at Bear Valley Community Church in Colleyville, are successful despite their circumstances.
“I think there’s a lot of deep loss of not having a father figure in your life,” Michael, 51, said. “You can either use that pain to become a victim or use it as an opportunity to grow.”
Michael met his father and some of his other half-siblings about four years ago. He mailed Jason an almost-two-page letter about 18 months ago in hopes of establishing a relationship.
Jason needed time to come to terms with having a long-lost half-brother, as anger toward his father resurfaced.
Discovering his roots
Michael was born in El Paso.
Jase Hatcher left the family when Michael was 2, and Michael and his five siblings were reared by their mother.
Michael’s ordination served as the impetus for him to find his father, whom Michael had long known lived in Louisiana. Internet research by a friend uncovered 50 Hatchers in Louisiana, and the first number Michael called, his grandmother answered. It led to his first conversation with his father, and later, a reunion of sorts.
“I was anxious to get to know him after that and puzzled as to why we didn’t know about him,” Carolas Purvis, Jason’s sister, said. “It was very strange.”
Purvis, who still lives in the small town of Jena, La., where Jason grew up, said Michael bears a likeness to their father. Jason resembles his mother, Jane.
Jase, who worked on and off as a carpenter and a pastor, left Jane and the family when Jason was 11. Jane died of congestive heart failure four years later.
Neither Michael nor Jason has Jase’s phone number. Neither has seen his father in a while. Michael said he has forgiven his father and is “working” on a relationship. Jason calls a relationship with his father a “nonfactor.”
“He gave me my size and my name. That’s about it,” Jason said. “I’m mad at my father for putting [Michael] in this situation, putting me in this situation that I have to find out who my brother is. I have no idea I had one. It’s one of those things you try to put it behind you. You’re mad at him because of what he did. He wasn’t a father to you, and then you come to find this out. You forgave him, and you find this out, and you get right back mad. It’s one of those things I’ve got to forgive him again.”
Jase Hatcher, now 76, learned of his sons’ expected meeting from a reporter. When asked if he has a relationship with Michael or Jason, Jase said, “Well, we don’t fight. All of us are men now. We’ve got to focus on getting our lives right with God.”
He said he has no regrets about time lost with his children.
“We’ve all walked in sin,” Jase said. “When you’re walking in sin, until God takes you out of sin, we take our sins and don’t look back and regret nothing. You pray for everybody. We all have sinned, so you don’t hold nothing against nobody.”
More than a name
Neither Jason nor Michael remembers his mother ever uttering a bad word about Jase.
That is one of the things they share beside the last name.
Both were college athletes, with Michael playing tennis at Weatherford College and then East Texas Baptist. He now is a part-time tennis instructor at McLeland Tennis Center in Fort Worth.
They also know they share a love of golf, a passion for the Cowboys and a deep belief that God is overseeing their relationship.
Michael seeks reconciliation for others every day. Two years ago, he founded a Fort Worth ministry, Life House, to serve as a temporary home for men separated from their families by drug addictions, jail time or other life choices. Life House’s purpose is “the belief that empowering a father mentally, physically and spiritually can save a multitude of children from going astray.”
But Jason and Michael insist that growing up without a father has made them better fathers. Jason has two sons and a daughter. Michael has three sons and a daughter.
“I find myself doing more and not saying no as much,” Jason said. “I find myself living through my kids, giving them what I always wanted in a father. I make sure I do more than enough for my kids. I’m being a father to them, and I’m also being a father to myself in a sense. I can kind of live through them.”