Two days ago, it was announced that famed Arkansas quarterback and former QB for the Patriots, Texans, and Ravens Ryan Mallett, had passed away at the age of 35 after drowning in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Destin, Florida.
Many believed that strong riptides played a role in his death, and even Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford even warned beachgoers about the dangerous rip current just days before his tragic death:
“I’m beyond frustrated at the situation that we have with tragic and unnecessary deaths in the Gulf. I have watched while deputies, firefighters and lifeguards have risked their lives to save strangers. I have seen strangers die trying to save their children and loved ones, including two fathers on fathers day.
These same heroes, who have risked it all to save others, have been cursed and given the finger, while trying to warn visitors of the life-threatening dangers. We have used the tools provided by the county commission to fine violators $500 for entering the water on double red flags. We don’t have the resources or time to cite every single person that enters the water but we do our absolute best to use it as a deterrent to entering the water. An arrest is only authorized upon a second offense unless the individual resists law enforcement.
We have been diligently working with the TDC, Commissioners and other partners to continually improve our response capabilities and messaging to make sure everyone knows the flag conditions. Yet, people are still dying.
Government and law enforcement can only do so much in these situations. Personal responsibility is the only way to ensure that no one else dies. Please make the effort to know the flag status and stay completely out of the water.
I’m so proud of the men and women at the sheriffs office and partner agencies that are giving their absolute best to save lives. Please be responsible and don’t put your life or theirs in danger.”
He also sent out a fair warning to any of those traveling to the beach about riptides:
“Use caution every time you go into the Gulf. Today is a bit rough, so be especially careful. We’ll be out on the sand, doing our best to keep you safe, visitors and residents alike.”
However, according to Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden, it’s now believed that strong riptides had nothing to do with Mallett’s death, and it was simply a freak drowning accident:
“The tragic loss of life, it’s always difficult when we lose a tourist or resident here, but we have no indication here of any dangerous conditions out there.
The entire Okaloosa County, as well as Destin, we’re not under red flags or double red flags despite some of the misperceptions out there.
We were under a yellow flag, which is just swim with caution. It just seems to be a tragic accident and not something to do with the conditions of the surf or tides or currents.”
Mallett began to struggle while trying to swim to a second sandbar around 150 feet from the Gulf Shores Drive beach around 2:15 PM on Tuesday.
Lifeguards rushed to the scene, but when he was recovered he wasn’t breathing.
Mallett still holds the Arkansas record for single season passing touchdowns and passing yards, with other records for total touchdowns and total offense. He was twice named All-SEC Second Team.
He also spent time with the New England Patriots, Houston Texans, and Baltimore Ravens in the NFL before retiring in 2017.
Before his death, he was coaching football at White Hall High School in Arkansas.