According to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, first responders were called to the beach around 2 p.m. ET when reports came in that a group of people near the sandbar were struggling to make it back to the shore. Once he was brought back to the beach, Mallett was unresponsive.
"One of the individuals, an adult male, went under and lifeguards say he was not breathing when pulled out," the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. "Lifesaving measures were immediately undertaken but the man was pronounced deceased at the Destin Emergency Room."
Mallett began his career at Michigan and transferred to Arkansas after his freshman season. He emerged as a star for the Razorbacks in 2009, throwing for 3,624 yards and 30 touchdowns. He led the the Hogs to an 8-5 record that included a win over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl.
Mallett was even better the following season. He threw for 3,869 yards and 32 touchdowns, leading Arkansas to a 10-3 record, a berth in the Sugar Bowl and a No. 12 finish in the final AP Top 25. That performance earned him second-team All-SEC honors for the second straight season. Mallett broke virtually every program passing record during his time under center with the Razorbacks.
"We are shocked and saddened by the passing of Ryan Mallett," Arkansas said in a statement posted to Twitter. "He was a Razorback legend with larger-than-life talent and a personality to match. He led our program to some of our best moments in recent memory. He will be missed by everyone who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his mother Debbie and his extended family."
The New England Patriots selected Mallett in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He went on to play seven seasons in the NFL with the Patriots (2011-13), Houston Texans (2014-15) and Baltimore Ravens (2015-17).
The Patriots organization offered its condolences in a social media statement.
"The New England Patriots are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected passing of former quarterback Ryan Mallett," the post read. "Our thoughts are with the Mallett family, his former teammates and all who are mourning his loss."
Mallett turned to coaching after the end of his playing days. He was preparing for his second season as the head coach at White Hall High School in Arkansas.