All It Took for Ryan Mallett and Those Who Will Forever Embrace Him

Ryan Mallett, Arkansas football
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

Sometimes two years is all it takes. 

Ryan Mallett spent only that long on the field for Arkansas, quarterbacking the Razorbacks in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. He was Arkansas born, though he played his high-school football in Texarkana, on the Texas side. Despite that latter point, Mallett always seemed to come across like a Hog. Even during his one season playing for Michigan, things felt like Mallett would – somehow – end up at his home state’s flagship school. Rich Rodriguez’s hiring made it possible.

And when he arrived in the Boston Mountains, celebrations began. They rarely stopped during those two years he was in Fayetteville, either. Mallett re-wrote the Arkansas football record books and still holds the school’s single-season yards passing and single-season passing touchdowns records. He’s second all-time on both marks. Two years was all it took.

Mallett, just 35, died this week from drowning in Florida – news first reported by Luke Matheson at and soon confirmed by outlets across the country. He was set to head into his second season running the program at White Hall High School outside Pine Bluff. 

Remembering Ryan Mallett

But it wasn’t just his play that earned him adoration from Arkansans. Mallett was a country boy at heart. He watched his own NFL draft from a hunting cabin outside Stuttgart. He had rowdiness in his blood, but never so much that caused major alarm, at least early in his life. Those partying ways just brought more affection from Razorbacks nation. The man who could allegedly throw a football 60 yards while on his knees was “one of them,” so to speak. His personality combined with his skill made him a legend.

A legend who never really stopped being all about his home state. Rare is the player who leaves Arkansas and so many of the state’s eyes continue watching once they get to the NFL. Not so for Mallett, whose six-year NFL career was constantly scrutinized for the positive. Even though his time at the highest level ended in 2017, Mallett was on the cusp of a gig in the XFL in 2019 (though an arrest halted that) and he played in a Spring League game as recently as 2021, never quite giving up his dream. An ill-suited marriage lasted just four months and a publicized custody battle over a dog ensued. His ex-wife would eventually start an account on OnlyFans. We aren’t linking to that site.

Things began to turn around for Mallett after that. His successes at Mountain Home led to his getting the job as White Hall’s head man in 2022. WHHS won four games in his first season. And, still, the state noticed, with Pig Trail Nation – the state’s largest Razorbacks news outlet – running a 20-minute documentary about Mallett and his journey less than a year ago.

Tributes and condolences poured in immediately on Tuesday when the public learned of Mallett’s death. From fans who never saw him play in-person to teammates who spent years with him, everyone seemed to love Ryan Mallett. 

And that’s how he’ll be remembered. An Arkansan. Flawed. Troubled. Talented. Ryan Mallett was just about everything most men in the Natural State want to be. 

Two years and a legacy set in stone.


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