Tom Murphy has covered the Razorbacks for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette since 2007. He has more than 25 years experience covering college athletics in Louisiana, Alabama and Arkansas.
2011 NFL DRAFT: Patriots soften Mallett’s fall
Ex-Hog drops to 3rd round
Former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett had to wait longer than many anticipated for his name to be called in the 2011 NFL Draft. Mallett was taken by the New England Patriots in the third round. “After going through this process I’m more excited, especially going there,” Mallett said.
HUMNOKE Ryan Mallett’s wait was longer than expected and at times tense, but the phone call he was waiting on couldn’t have come from a more respected place.
The New England Patriots called at about 8:10 p.m. Friday, as Mallett was on his phone with another call on the back porch of Steel Wings Duck Club, to let the former Arkansas quarterback know they were about to take him in the third round of the NFL Draft.
The buzz about Mallett’s call quickly spread through the big gathering of family and friends at the spacious lodge, and moments later New England used the 10th pick of the third round to select Mallett.
In succession after hanging up with the Patriots, Mallett turned and gave big hugs to his father Jim, mother Debbie and sister Lauren while fighting with emotions and wiping his eyes.
“After going through this process I’m more excited, especially going there,” Mallett said, a big grin on his face and Patriots cap on his head, minutes later.
Mallett spoke with New England Coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft for a few moments while the media snapped photos and anxious family members strained to see and hear him.
The pick, the 74th of the draft, drew huge cheers from the Malletts and their guests, who knew that serving as an understudy for three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady and playing for one of the most successful organizations in the NFL was a good fit for Mallet.
“It was a little bit tense for everybody,” said Jim Mallett, already clad in a Patriots jacket. “We know what type of athlete Ryan is, and we just wanted him to have a chance.”
Former Tampa Bay Coach Jon Gruden, who served as an analyst for the draft and hosted Mallett for his QB Camp series, said of Mallett, “I don’t care if he’s the first pick in the draft. I’d rather be in the position he’s in right now.”
Mallett’s pick came on the 73rd birthday of his maternal grandmother, Gail Burnette, who was among the gathering numbering in the 70s atthe camp.
Mallett’s agent, J.R. Carroll, expressed relief after waiting through the first round on Thursday and 41 more picks on Friday.
“We thought it was more of a possibility for the Patriots in the second round, but there were a lot of quarterbacks taken and ... there wasn’t a lot of jostling for position after that,” Carroll said.
“Teams are there to maximize the value of their picks. It was simply a matter of the Patriots knowing they could get their guy at the maximum value. There’s no one better at maximizing their picks than the New England Patriots.”
Speaking with media in New England, Belichick said the organization did a total evaluation of Mallett and the Patriots are eager to see Mallett come in and compete.
“He’s a football guy,” Belichick said. “As long as you want to talk about football, he’ll talk.”
Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino said in a statement he was pleased to see Mallett mature on and off the field during his time in Fayetteville.
“Each Saturday I saw him make throws no one else in America was making, and I know he has the physical tools to be successful in the NFL. Ryan played an instrumental part in the transition when I arrived, and I can’t say enough about what he has done for this program.”
Mallett, who earned afirst-round draft grade by some analysts, slid into the third round, perhaps due to the waves of negative publicity he endured in the weeks leading up to the draft. Unsourced reports questioned his character, leadership and off-the-field choices, and one unnamed general manager said Mallett admitted to prior drug use in a private interview.
“After the past three or four months, everything I’ve had to deal with and listen to and hear, and you know, it cost me,” Mallett said. “I can’t do nothing about it, butI’m going to go up there and learn as much as I can. And I want to go up there and be as successful as Tom.”
Debbie Mallett, the quarterback’s mother, said she was ecstatic.
“I think that’s the perfect place for Ryan,” she said. “Who better to learn from, and Tom Brady is one of his idols.
“And their stories are kind of parallel right now. Six went before Tom, six went before Ryan. That’s OK. His goal is to go prove all these people wrong and the Patriots right for choosing him. That’s what Tom did. He proved the Patriots right for choosing him. I think he’ll use Tom as inspiration.”
Mallett broke more than 30 school records during his two-year stint at Arkansas, including 62 career touchdown passes and 7,493 passing yards.
Mallett was the seventh quarterback taken, following Cam Newton (1st round, 1st overall pick), Jake Locker (1, 8), Blaine Gabbert (1, 10), Christian Ponder (1, 12), Andy Dalton (2, 35) and Colin Kaepernick (2, 36).
Mallett, 22, is the first Arkansas player drafted at quarterback since Kevin Scanlon was the 332nd pick in the 12th round of the 1980 draft by the Los Angeles Rams.
His pick extended Arkansas’ streak to 16 consecutive seasons with a draft pick.
The list of former Arkansas quarterbacks taken in the NFL Draft includes Lamar McHan (1954, Chicago Cardinals), Gordon Quest (1964, Washington Redskins), Ronny South (1968, New Orleans Saints), Joe Ferguson (1973, Buffalo Bills), Mike Kirkland (1976, Baltimore Colts), Scott Bull (1976, San Francisco 49ers) and Matt Jones (2005, Jacksonville Jaguars). Mike Cherry (1997, New York Giants) and Tarvaris Jackson (2006, Minnesota Vikings) were transfer players selected out of Murray State and Alabama State, respectively.
Sports, Pages 21 on 04/30/2011