CONCORD, N.H. — Former NFL player and recovering addict Jeff Hatch said a relapse led to his drug trafficking arrest Thursday afternoon in federal court. 

Hatch, 39, of Manchester, formally pleaded guilty to using a phone to facilitate a drug deal. The plea was part of an agreement Hatch struck with the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Cole Davis.

The former business development officer for Salem-based Granite Recovery Centers used his cellphone to arrange a deal between two unnamed drug dealers, transporting 1,500 grams of fentanyl from Lawrence to Manchester, according to court documents.

Hatch faces up to four years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to court documents. Hatch’s sentencing is set for Nov. 6.

“I would have been charged with a larger crime than this if we went to trial,” Hatch told Judge Joseph N. Laplante in court.

After court, Hatch’s lawyer Charles Keefe read a statement from Hatch.

“I’m a drug addict and an alcoholic,” Hatch said in the statement. “After a long term of sobriety, I relapsed after a total knee replacement where I was prescribed pain killers as part of my recovery. That lead me to some dark places, for which I’m eternally ashamed.”

In court Thursday, Hatch said he made the drug trafficking call on July 25, 2017. He was arrested by New Hampshire State Police on Sept. 18, 2017.

Sept. 18, 2017, is also the date Hatch last took drugs, he told the judge.

"Opiates are my main" drug of choice, Hatch said in court.

Hatch said that he signed a cooperative agreement with state police in 2017 and later worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

In his statement to the press, Hatch’s attorney said that he was unable to tell anyone about his relapse because of his cooperation agreement.

“My employer, my family, those who are close to me knew nothing about this,” Hatch said through his attorney. “I’ll have much more to say when I am able.”

Keefe said that there have been inaccurate details released in the media, and that he has asked the U.S. Attorney’s office to investigate leaked materials about his case. He would not expand on what those inaccuracies or leaked materials were.

Hatch began working at Granite Recovery Centers in 2014, according to his LinkedIn page, and continued to work for Granite Recovery Centers after his arrest in 2017. He was promoted to the company’s chief business officer in 2018, according to his LinkedIn page.

His relationship with the center was severed when the plea agreement became public, Eric Spofford, CEO of the center, said.

At the time of Hatch’s promotion, “he had been sober again and flying under the radar, we of course didn’t know about it,” Spofford said Thursday evening after the hearing.

“This was a powerful example of the disease, of how addiction is. We live in recovery every day. It’s one day at a time. It takes constant work and vigilance everyday.

“His relapse could happen to anyone in recovery at any time,” Spofford said.

The case put a spotlight on Granite Recovery because of Hatch's connection to it as well his connection to the last-minute cancellation of a visit to Granite Recovery by Vice President Mike Pence.

Secrecy shrouded Pence's reasons for cancelling until Hatch’s plea agreement became public.

“This has been a tough situation, but the community has been unbelievably supportive,” Spofford said. “The team at Granite has been unbelievably amazing. It didn’t have an impact on the amazing treatment that continues to happen.”