Mallett’s untimely death stands as a reminder to us all

As we enter into what will be an extra-long summer weekend for some in anticipation of the Fourth of July holiday on Tuesday, it’s a great time to assess all areas of our lives.

For Razorback fans and followers whose Hog memories reach back 15 years or so, the tragic drowning death of former Razorback quarterback Ryan Mallett on Tuesday still weighs heavily on our hearts and minds. He died swimming in the ocean while on vacation in Destin, Fla.

Obviously his passing at just 35 years old is crushing for his family, friends, players, and associates at White Hall High School, but it is also a weighty matter for thousands of Razorback fans who lived and died with every snap he took and every pass he threw in his two-year career for the Hogs in 2009-10.

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Relatively few of them actually got to meet Mallett, who exuded a confidence and an excitability that spilled over to his teammates, but in watching him play on Saturdays, whether in the stands or on TV, they no doubt embraced the Texarkana, Texas native as their own. Hog fans embrace their Razorbacks like few other fan bases do, and the 6-7 strong-armed quarterback left many of them with some great memories.

Mallett had one of the strongest if not the strongest arms in Razorback history. The only two I would put in his category would be Joe Ferguson (1970-72) — whom I don’t personally remember as a Razorback but did follow during his NFL career with the Buffalo Bills — and Brad Taylor (1981-84). By virtue of the changes in rules and style of play in general, they didn’t get to air it out quite like Mallett did under Bobby Petrino’s tutelage.

Mallett let if fly like as a Razorback. He holds the Arkansas record for the most passing yardage in a single season with 3,869 and is second in total passing yards to Tyler Wilson (7,765) with 7,493. It has to be noted that Wilson competed for the Razorbacks for four seasons — two as Mallett’s back-up — and Mallett played just two years for the Hogs.

Ironically, the 332 yards that Wilson passed for against Auburn in 2010 when he came off the bench for a concussed Mallett is the yardage that puts Wilson ahead of Mallett on Arkansas’ all-time passing yardage list. Take those yards off Wilson’s tally, and Mallett would have 50 more career passing yards.

For my money, Mallett threw the best long ball among Razorback quarterbacks I’ve seen. It didn’t hurt that he got to pass to guys like Jarius Wright, who also coaches at White Hall; Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Cobi Hamilton among others. They all made each other look good.

Mallett’s final season with the Hogs in 2010 is among the best two Razorback seasons in the last 33 years. The Hogs finished 10-3 overall, and Arkansas earned a Bowl Championship Series berth, in the Sugar Bowl, for the first and only time in school history. The following season, Wilson quarterbacked the Hogs to an 11-2 season and a Cotton Bowl berth.

(AP Photo/Beth Hall)

You have to go back to 1988 and 1989 when Ken Hatfield’s Hogs’ went 10-2 in back to back seasons to find better or comparable winning percentages. Razorback great and current radio color analyst Quinn Grovey quarterbacked those teams.

Mallett was heading into his second year as White Hall’s head coach before his tragic death. We’ll always be left to wonder where his coaching career would have led him.

Whenever a person that young passes, it is a reminder of how fragile and precious life is. Though the Bible verse James 4:14 is of little comfort in times of loss, its truth rings clearest after such an untimely death. It says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

The implication, of course, is to make sure you take care of all that you need to do in terms of relationships — vertical and horizontal — now instead of leaving this mortal coil with some regret.

If there is someone you need to forgive or to ask forgiveness of, take care of that business right away, and by all means, don’t to let the opportunity to verbalize as well as actualize your love for others slip away.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2023 Football schedule

Countdown to Kickoff: 63 Days

Sept. 2 – Western Carolina at Little Rock (3 p.m. ESPN+/SEC+)
Sept. 9 – Kent State (3 p.m. SEC Network)
Sept. 16 – BYU (6:30 p.m. ESPN2)
Sept. 23 – at LSU (TBA)
Sept. 30 – Texas AM at Arlington, Texas (TBA)
Oct. 7 – at Ole Miss (TBA)
Oct. 14 – at Alabama (TBA)
Oct. 21 – Mississippi State (TBA)
Nov. 4 – at Florida (TBA)
Nov. 11 – Auburn (TBA)
Nov. 18 – Florida International (TBA)
Nov. 24 – Missouri – (3 p.m. CBS)