Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Mallett gone much too soon
Mountain Home assistant coach Ryan Mallett (right) yells to his players during the second quarter of the Bombers' 45-21 loss to Little Rock Parkview on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
When one thinks of Ryan Mallett the quarterback, the first thing that comes to mind was the crazy strength of his arm and how far he could throw the football.
In pregame warmups as an Arkansas Razorback, he’d walk around the field wearing a big headset, listening to whatever music motivated him, and he’d rare back and throw the ball to no one and the ball would soar 60 yards. He was just loosening up.
Once when he was with the New England Patriots backing up Hall of Famer Tom Brady, after practice someone challenged who had the best arm throwing deep.
Someone set up a big trash can 65 yards away and while neither threw in the target, Mallett did hit it and Brady was a couple of yards short.
After that season, Mallett was traded to the Houston Texans and the NFL third-round pick worked his way up to starter at one time.
Sadly and way too soon, Mallett, 35, drowned Monday while on vacation in Florida.
It made national news and everyone from Paul Finebaum to the local news was talking about.
Mallett was the strongest-armed Razorback in history, but he also was a pin-point passer, and although his receivers had to adjust to the speed of the ball, which they did, he was a team player.
In his two seasons (2009-10) playing for Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, the Razorbacks were 18-8, the best two-year span since Ken Hatfield led the Hogs to back-to-back 10-2 seasons in 1988-89.
Houston Nutt came close a couple of times at Arkansas with two seasons of 18-9.
Nutt recruited Mallett, but he played for Petrino and there wasn’t a pass the Texarkana (Texas) High School superstar couldn’t make. He was fearless in the pocket and took a pounding, many times just before he got the ball off for a completion.
Mallett and Petrino were like a marriage: They might get crossed up occasionally, but they were always on the same page and it was about being your best and winning.
In his second season, Mallett led the Razorbacks to a 10-3 record and their only Bowl Championship Series berth and he held a large number of school passing records.
Mallett still holds UA single-season records with 3,869 passing yards and 32 touchdown passes in 2010.
His 62 career touchdown passes rank second behind Brandon Allen’s 64, and his 7,493 passing yards are second to his successor Tyler Wilson’s 7,765.
Allen has been on an NFL roster since 2016 and recently signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers.
Mallett finished his career with the Baltimore Ravens after the 2017 season, but he wasn’t quite ready to hang up his cleats. In 2019 he tried out for the XFL and in 2021 he played for The Spring League, but the yearning had changed.
He had spent the 2020 season as an assistant coach at Mountain Home High School and he dedicated himself to coaching after the spring fling and in 2022 he became the head football coach at White Hall High School and went 4-6 in his only season.
In an interview with the Pine Bluff Commercial, he said: “I always knew I was going to do it [become a head coach]. It’s a good school and a good opportunity and the facilities are amazing.”
Mallett’s parents, Jim and Debbie Mallett, were educators who met at a football game at Arkansas Tech. He was coach until his passing two years ago.
Lauren Mallett, Ryan’s sister, is also an educator.
Ryan Mallett was a fun-loving fierce competitor and he instilled confidence into teammates and players. The condolences poured in from all over the country from former teammates and coaches from ever level of the game.
He was liked, respected and gone way too soon.
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