Ryan Mallett, former Arkansas star and NFL QB, dies at 35

By Nicole Auerbach, Bruce Feldman, and Jeff Srebeek

Former NFL quarterback Ryan Mallett died Tuesday in Florida, according to the school district where he coached high school football. He is 35 years old.

A Michigan source confirmed Athletic That Mallet drowned in Florida.

Mallett, who began his college career at Michigan, is best known for his years at Arkansas, where he made more than a dozen records and revitalized the program. He holds the Arkansas school record for single-season passing yards (3,869) and touchdowns (32). Many around the program consider him the best quarterback in Razorback history. Mallett was known for his incredible arm strength and the hype surrounding him; He was the Gatorade National Player of the Year at Texas in 2006 and the No. 2 quarterback in the 2007 class, according to 247Sports.

“We are shocked and saddened by the passing of Ryan Mallett,” Arkansas’ football program said in a statement. “He was a Razorback legend with larger-than-life talent and a personality to match. He led our program to some of its greatest moments in recent memory. He will be missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his mother, Debbie, and his family.”

Mallett was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He backed up quarterback Tom Brady for three seasons before being traded to the Houston Texans in 2014. Between his time in Houston and subsequent seasons as a Baltimore Raven, Mallett ultimately started eight NFL games.

“The New England Patriots are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected passing of former quarterback Ryan Mallett,” the team said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with Mallet’s family, his former teammates and all those grieving his loss.”

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After his playing days ended, Mallett turned to coaching, first as an assistant coach and then as the head coach at White Hall High School in Arkansas. He became the head coach in February 2022 and served in that position until his death.

“It is with great sadness that we share the loss of Coach Ryan Mallett,” the White Hall School District said in a statement. “Coach Mallet was a beloved coach and educator. Please keep his family, team, students, fellow coaches and staff of the White Hall School District in your prayers.

How I will remember Mallet

Mallett was a big-time recruit coming out of high school. He went to the Elite 11 as a 5-star QB heading to Michigan. He was nicknamed Big Dex because he was big, and his arm was even bigger. Mallett towered over everyone except LSU’s JaMarcus Russell, who was a consultant there.

Two memories from that week stick with me whenever I hear Mallett’s name: The only hand I saw in person was Russell’s. In that camp, they both can throw the ball so hard, so much juice, that when they throw to targets in a QB challenge, it comes off the ground with so much heat, the ball takes. Skin anyone’s jaws if they’re in the line of fire.

The other memory is that he inspired me to play NCAA football. I don’t know if he let me take the lead on purpose, but he certainly enjoyed trash-talking every step of his comeback, and he was very good at it. Very well. I realized that his personality is as big as his hand. – Feldman

What the mullet means to Baltimore

Mallett started just three games for the Ravens in three seasons, but he helped script one of the most improbable wins in team history. The 2015 Ravens went 5-10 heading into a Week 16 matchup against their biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and were ravaged by injuries. Football player Joe Flacco is out for the season with a knee injury. Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen have already started two games each. The Ravens officially signed Mallett on Dec. 15.

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Twelve days later, he threw for 274 yards and a touchdown to lead a 20–17 home upset of the playoff-bound Steelers. Mallett wore a big smile on his face as he grabbed the game ball and ran off the field. After his tough finish in Houston, you could tell how much the win meant to him. Considering how much the Ravens love to beat the Steelers, Mallett earned a permanent place in Ravens lore. — Roe Deer

What are they saying?

“I am deeply saddened by Ryan’s tragic passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the many people he touched,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.

Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr released a statement about his program’s former QB.

“I was very saddened to hear of Ryan’s passing,” Carr said. “This is heartbreaking news. Prayers for Ryan and his family.

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

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