Once the news broke that Ryan Mallett was named head football coach at White Hall High School, his ringtone kept blaring overnight.
"I couldn't get any sleep," the 33-year-old said.
White Hall, the 5A state runner-up, had just made a home-run hire in the former University of Arkansas quarterback who was most recently offensive coordinator at 6A Mountain Home. It's the first head coaching gig for Mallett, who said he was looking to advance in his young career after seven years playing in the NFL.
"First, I know they've got kids who can play," Mallett said. "I always knew I was going to do it [become a head coach]. It's a good school and a good opportunity, and the facilities are amazing."
White Hall is in the midst of a $26 million facilities addition, including a multipurpose building that opened to the football team at the start of this school year and a fine arts center at the high school.
Mallett, a health instructor at Mountain Home, said he has to discuss further details with White Hall School District Superintendent Doug Dorris about when he can begin and what he'll teach, but the Razorback has great plans on arriving in time for spring football.
"He showed me he wanted to come here and turn a program around," Dorris said. "The thing everybody's got to realize is, next year on paper is going to be a lean year, when you lose 28 seniors and 10 on defense. I think he can help to turn things around."
White Hall went 11-3 and lost to Pulaski Academy in the 5A title game. Bobby Bolding stepped down as the Bulldogs' coach after three seasons, but Dorris said he will offer Bolding the chance to stay on as athletic director with different duties.
Hired at Mountain Home in April 2020, Mallett and Coach Steve Ary were instrumental in turning around a Bombers program that had lost 23 games in a row before defeating Nettleton in the second week of that season. The Bombers finished 6-5, beating Pine Bluff in the first round of the 6A playoffs before losing to Greenwood.
Mountain Home went 4-8 in 2021, but a 2-5 mark in the 6A-West Conference was enough to get the Bombers back in the postseason. They rewarded themselves by toppling Sylvan Hills in the first round before running into Greenwood again.
"We got them really interested by changing offenses, spreading out and throwing the ball," Mallett said, adding the Bombers had previously run a Wing-T and Dead-T offense. "Guys reacted to that, and it made it easy for them to buy in."
Mallett would like to bring a Spread offense and four-man defensive front concepts to White Hall, but he said he has to find his assistant coaches before he commits to a scheme.
"I'm very much into playing into the strengths of who we got," Mallett said. "We'll go from there and see what we got. We run the ball, but we will throw that thing around the yard. We'll get to the basics, but you've got to start with the foundation."
Mallett emerged from a group of six interviewees, three of whom spoke face-to-face with school officials. Dorris said the school board chose from one of two finalists, after the third dropped out.
"His attitude, his reputation, all of his references were outstanding," board President Dr. Raymond Jones said. "He seems like a young man who can help grow our program with a lot of potential. He'll be coming into a difficult situation with a lot of seniors graduating now, but he's just the type of person you want from a personality standpoint."
Ryan Mallett profile
• Age: 33 (born June 5, 1988)
• Hometown: Texarkana, Texas
• Family: Single
• Playing career: Texas High School (2004-06), 7,879 passing yards and 72 touchdowns with 19 interceptions; University of Michigan (2007) and University of Arkansas (2009-10), 8,385 passing yards and 69 touchdowns with 24 interceptions; New England Patriots (2011-13), Houston Texans (2014-15) and Baltimore Ravens (2015-17); 1,835 yards and 9 touchdowns with 10 interceptions
• Coaching career: Mountain Home High School (2020-21), assistant who last served as offensive coordinator