The tragedy of Ryan Mallett’s death weighs on the lives he won’t be able to affect

In 2008, Casey Dick was about to begin his second season as the starting quarterback at the University of Arkansas when 6-foot-6-inch Ryan Mallett entered the program.

It didn’t take long for Dick to be enthralled by Mallett’s physical prowess, namely how, if he wanted, Mallett could uncork a football 80 or more yards. Size, strength and keen interest in learning how to play the position… it was all there.

“Immediately you thought, ‘This guy is going to the NFL,'” Dick said Wednesday, a day after Mallett tragically drowned at a Destin, Florida, beach. Mallett was only 35 years old.

Mallett always knew his potential as a player. He also knew his true long-term future. He certainly was going to play as long as possible—in this case a two-time All-SEC selection for some classic Razorback teams and then seven seasons in the NFL.

Although eventually, Mallett was going to go into coaching. His father, Jim, was a longtime Texas high school coach, including leading Ryan to Texarkana (Texas) High. Ryan grew up practicing. As a child, he used to ride blocky sleds for fun.

“Everyone in my family — my dad and his brother — is called ‘Coach,'” Ryan Mallett told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette this spring. “‘Coach Mallett.’ That’s all I’ve heard so far. I was going to be a coach.

“He always wanted to make an impact in people’s lives,” said Dick, now the head coach at Fayetteville (Arkansas) High School. “That was Ryan. He was like that as a teammate. He cared about everyone in the team. And that’s why he always wanted to be a coach at some point.”

The thing is, along with his accomplishments, his name (he’s a legend in Arkansas, if not the entire South), his pedigree as a former five-star recruit and SEC record-setter, and his ability to back up Tom Brady and With his professional experience coached by Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh, among others, he could get a job at almost any level.

Major college football. sec. NFL. whatever. Mallett was certainly respected throughout the game for his athleticism, but more so for his work ethic, values ​​and acumen. His future was almost limitless.

Harbaugh said, “I will always remember his love for his teammates.”

Brady said, “We lost a great man.”

Ryan Mallett (right) played seven seasons in the NFL after being selected by the Patriots in the third round of the 2011 draft.  He apparently died of drowning.  He was 35 years old.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Ryan Mallett (right) played seven seasons in the NFL after being selected by the Patriots in the third round of the 2011 draft. He apparently died of drowning. He was 35 years old. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

However Ryan Mallett chose not to pursue college or a professional job. Instead he decided to apply himself in the high school ranks where he felt he could make the most impact on his players on and off the field.

Mallett told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, “My job is to help shape and mold the youth.” “This is a time when a lot of them are finding out about themselves. I hope I can help them.”

He didn’t even care where and whom he was affecting. He didn’t try to join a title contending team or a big city school. He didn’t even demand that he be the head coach.

Instead, in 2020, he became the offensive coordinator at Mountain Home (Arkansas) High School, a small town along the Missouri border that is about as far from the NFL spotlight as you can get. and football schedules? It was one of the worst seasons in the state, posting a 1–29 record over the previous three seasons.

Mallett couldn’t be happier. Maybe someone else didn’t understand why Ryan Mallett-Ryan Mallett! — had become the assistant coach for a lousy, offbeat, high school team. However, for them, while those days were great in the SEC and NFL, it was not because of the size of the stadiums or the national television cameras.

Mallett said, “It was a lot of fun, but records and games are not what I think about the most.” “It’s relationships. That’s what you remember; Coaches, teammates and everyone involved in the program.”

In Mountain View, he helped quickly end a 23-game losing streak. By 2021, the Bombers went 4–8 and pulled off a surprise upset in the state playoffs.

It was enough that in 2022, he was hired as the head coach of White Hall (Arkansas) High School in a town of 5,000 people outside Pine Bluff. It was still far from the limelight, but as he hung some of his memorabilia in his office, he realized that few, if any, of his current players knew much about the old days.

White Hall went 4-6 in Mallett’s first season, but Mallett’s enthusiasm for the job and the program he built was evident when he and Casey Dick came to a recent 7-on-7 tournament in Fayetteville. More kids who had never played football were coming out and Mallett kept talking about the connections he was making.

Dick said, “He’s got his place.” “It was all about the kids, coaching the kids, helping the kids and making an impact on them. Sometimes your niche finds you and with Ryan it definitely found it.

Great football player. Small town high school coach.

“That made her happy,” said Dick. “It was great to see him like this. This is all very shocking.

Dick and others lost a friend and teammate on Tuesday. The Mallet family lost a son and a brother. The Razorbacks lost a legend.

And potentially generations of young, small-town Southern kids lost a leader, a mentor and a coach who was at the top of the game but now far more interested in them than in trying to come back.

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