ESPN News Services4 minutes of reading
Former Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, who spent seven years in the NFL, drowned Tuesday off a Florida beach. According to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. He is 35 years old.
The sheriff’s office said first responders were called to the beach in Destin, Florida at 2:12 p.m. local time after a group of people swimming near a sandbar in the Gulf of Mexico struggled to get back to shore. One man, later identified as Mallett, was not breathing when he was pulled from the water and was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“It is with great sadness that we share the loss of coach Ryan Mallett,” White Hall, the school district where Mallett coached high school football, said. wrote in a post on its website. “Coach Mallet was a beloved coach and educator. We ask that you remember his family, team, students, fellow coaches and staff of the White Hall School District in your prayers.”
Mallett played for the University of Michigan for one season before transferring to Arkansas, where he started a combined 26 games in 2009 and 2010. As a redshirt sophomore in 2009 under coach Bobby Petrino, he led the Razorbacks to an 8-5 record. In the Liberty Bowl, he earned offensive MVP honors.
His best season came in 2010, when he threw for 3,869 yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with a 64.7 completion percentage and earned second-team All-SEC honors for the second time. He finished seventh in the 2010 Heisman Trophy voting.
“We are shocked and saddened by the passing of Ryan Mallett,” Arkansas football program He said in a statement on Twitter. “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 will be with him. Mother Debbie and his family.”
The New England Patriots selected Mallett in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, 74th overall. Coach Bill Belichick explained at the time that the team could not have enough depth at quarterback, leading to the selection of Mallett as one of Tom Brady’s backups.
“We felt he was a good player. He’s had success everywhere — high school, college. He’s an impressive guy to talk to,” Belichick said at the time.
Belichick described how the Patriots followed Mallett’s college career, starting at Michigan in 2007 and then when he transferred to Arkansas as a result of a new Wolverine coaching staff establishing a different offense. At Arkansas, Belichick noted how effective he was in a pro-style offense under Petrino, saying in 2011: “He’s a long way off compared to some of the other quarterbacks we’ve seen.”
In a statement Tuesday, Belichick said he was “deeply saddened by Ryan’s tragic passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the many people he touched.”
Mallett played just 24 snaps as Brady’s backup in New England, resulting in Brady’s durability and occasional exit from games. He was traded to the Houston Texans prior to the 2014 season, where he made six starts and played in nine games over two seasons with the team before being released in October 2015, when he signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Two starts in eight appearances so far in 2017.
“Terrible news to read about Ryan Mallett. Gone too soon. Rest in peace bro,” J.J. Watt is Mallett’s former teammate in Houston. said in a tweet.
Mallett appeared in 21 NFL games for his career, making eight starts. He finished 190 of 345 attempts in the NFL with 1,835 yards and nine touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
After beginning his coaching career as an assistant at Mountain Home High School, he was hired as the head football coach at White Hall High School in 2022.
“I always knew I was going to coach,” Mallett said after being named coach in White Hall, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “It’s natural for me. I understand it. I understand how everything works, and then I love football. You teach kids the right way at a young age, that’s something I love.”
ESPN’s Mike Reiss, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.