FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Ryan Mallett took a close look at the NFL last year before deciding to return to Arkansas.
The Razorbacks' junior liked what he saw this time around, declaring for the NFL draft on Thursday night.
Mallett, who led the Razorbacks to their first BCS bowl game this season, leaves the school after two seasons as the starting quarterback. He led the Southeastern Conference in passing, throwing for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns. He added to that in Arkansas' 31-26 loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, throwing for 277 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"A year ago, when I returned to school, I said I wanted to help lead this team to a place among the nation's elite and for the Razorback community to have a mindset to expect greatness," Mallett said in a statement. "There is no doubt we got there together and this program will continue to play games on the biggest stages and when it does we'll come out swinging."
The 6-foot-6 Mallett began his college career at Michigan before transferring to Arkansas and Rich Rodriguez was hired by the Wolverines and Bobby Petrino by the Razorbacks. After sitting out a season, Mallett began a two-year passing assault on the school's record books.
He broke the school record for most touchdown passes in a season (30) last season, leading Arkansas to an 8-5 record and win over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl. Mallett broke that record again this season by finishing with 32 touchdowns, and his career total of 62 is tops in school history.
Mallett also set school records for the most passing yards in a season and single game.
"I'm very proud of Ryan Mallett, and I can't say enough about what he has done for this program," Petrino said in a statement. "Leaders do their job extremely well and lift everyone around them to compete better and Ryan does those things."
After opening this season 4-2, 1-2 in the SEC, Mallett led the Razorbacks on a six-game winning streak to close out the regular season. The streak was enough to lift Arkansas into the Sugar Bowl, its first BCS bowl game.
After falling behind 28-7, Mallett nearly led the Razorbacks all the way back against the Buckeyes. However, he threw an interception on Arkansas' final drive deep in Ohio State territory in the closing minutes to end the comeback attempt.
Mallett briefly considered entering the draft after his sophomore season last year, his third in college football. He eventually decided to return, but after being projected by many as a first-round pick this year, Mallett declared on Thursday.
"Playing in the NFL is a goal of mine, and I am grateful to the people that have prepared me to take the next step," Mallett said. "Coach Petrino is a winner, a man of character and the hardest worker I have ever seen."