WHITE HALL — Ryan Mallett may have coached at White Hall High School for just one football season, but he will always be a Bulldog.
The former Arkansas football standout and NFL quarterback was remembered Sunday in a deeply somber and emotional memorial held at White Hall High School. The school also paid tribute to two students who have recently died, Benjamin Redix, a football player who played his senior year under Mallett and was headed to Southern Arkansas University this fall, and another student who was in ROTC.
Mallett’s death on June 27 in a drowning accident in Florida rocked the White Hall community, which was already grieving for Redix, who died in a gun accident the day before the school’s graduation in May. Mallett had become close with Redix and his mother, who lived across the street from him.
Tears flowed as the approximately 100 mourners remembered the three Bulldogs in the hour-long ceremony that was held so faculty, students and the community could unite to share their grief and tell stories about their loved ones.
Getting into Coaching
Ryan Mallett’s sister, Lauren Hayes, told stories about her brother’s persistent determination.
“(For) half our lives…he was the thorn in my side that liked to push my buttons and get me as mad as he could,” Hayes said. “The second half of our lives, we were each other’s protectors, motivators, encouragers. I have always been awed by Ryan’s work ethic.”
Hayes said what people didn’t see about her brother was his work ethic – whether he was playing or coaching sports.
She said her brother realized his football career wouldn’t last forever and he would need a career afterward. She said Mallett came to her about earning a degree because he left the University of Arkansas before graduating to play in the NFL. He called his sister to ask for help with some of his college classes. She asked what his major was. Sociology, Mallett answered.
“What does one do with a sociology degree?” Hayes asked. “Ryan said ‘I don’t know what one does but I’m going to coach.’”
Mallett, Hayes said, wanted to impart to youth what the game allowed him to capitalize on and help others reach their dreams.
Hayes talked about how her brother gave Bulldog players the gift of new opportunities. Mallett took players to Fayetteville to visit the UA campus and let Arkansas football coaches meet them, showing them the path it would take to have a college football career.
Memories from Mallett’s DC
Hunter Vincent, the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator, called Ryan Mallett his “brother and life-long best friend” although they had only known each other for just over a year. Mallett lured Vincent from his coaching gig at Magnet Cove, and the two quickly bonded.
Like coaches often do, Vincent didn’t call Mallett by his first name. It was always “Mallett”.
While Mallett possessed unique physical gifts, Vincent said he believed that Mallett’s “character qualities were more rare.”
Mallett and Vincent, both 34 years old, talked every day about more than coaching. They worked out together in a Little Rock gym and golfed together. Mallett moved his boat to Heber Springs, where Vincent had his boat, so he and Vincent could spend weekends on Greers Ferry Lake together.
But their relationship went beyond bro time. They had deep discussions about life and the importance of family, Vincent said. Sometimes when Vincent was at work, he and Mallett would FaceTime with Vincent’s wife and their baby.
Mallett’s could be extremely intense and fun at the same time, Vincent said.
“He had the ability to be a leader that anybody would follow, but at the same time put himself right down on their level,” said Vincent. “He was someone everyone wanted to take a picture with and he loved doing this stuff for his fans, but he just loved being one of the boys, too. To me the rarest quality he had was the ability to live life like he did with a fire in his heart to love and give to all the people around him.”
Mallett Went Above and Beyond
Vincent recalled a story about last Christmas when he got his wife two tickets to an Arkansas basketball game in Fayetteville.
“When Coach Mallett found out we were going, he said, ‘I want to make this a special night for you guys,’” Vincent said.
Ryan Mallett got tickets to the same game and took Vincent and his wife out to dinner at Herman’s Ribhouse. Razorback football legend Matt Jones was also eating in Herman’s and Mallett introduced the Vincents to Jones.
But there was more to Mallett’s gift than that introduction.
Once at the game, Mallett, who was not sitting with the couple, called Vincent five minutes into the game and said he had gotten them luxury box seats – a first for the Vincents.
“We get to go watch the game from the box,” Vincent said. “I thought this is what he meant, this is pretty cool.”
Yet, there was more in store for the couple.
“We get to the end of the game and he said, ‘I’ve never met Coach Musselman, you want to meet him?’” Vincent said. “Well yeah, how you going to pull this off? Well, I’ll tell you how. He pulled out his phone and called Ronnie Brewer.”
Brewer, the former Razorback basketball player who played in the NBA, is now Mussellman’s recruiting coordinator.
“We bypass the crowd and get to go down on the floor with the family pass,” Vincent said. “My wife gets her picture made with Anthony Black. Coach Musselman had already left the floor, but he comes back out to meet us and take a picture. Great time. It was awesome.”
Mallett always introduced Vincent as the best defensive coach in the state and explained how one day Vincent would be a head coach. He said Mallett always made sure to introduce him, no matter who he was talking to at the time.
“I always thought that was so cool except this one time,” Vincent said. “We’re on the floor at Bud Walton taking a picture with Eric Musselman and he goes into the same thing. ‘Coach Muss, this is Hunter Vincent, my defensive coordinator. He is the best defensive coordinator in the state.’ And (Mallett) pauses. He looks at me up and down.”
Then Mallett said, “I know he doesn’t look like much, but I swear he’s the best defensive coach in the state and is going to make a great head coach one day.”
The crowd laughed while wiping tears.
“To the players here at White Hall, Coach Mallett loved you,” Vincent said. “He was hard on you but as hard as he was on you, he loved you even more. I know you felt that the day after Ben’s passing when I saw how hard he was gripping you guys on the field, I know you felt that love.
“He wanted the best out of you on the football field and he wanted the best for you in life.”
More coverage of Arkansas football legend and White Hall High School coach Ryan Mallett from BoAS…