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The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

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New beginnings: Mallett’s story

Former football captain recovering four years removed from near-fatal wreck
WORKING+HARD%3A+Former+Bowie+quarterback+Evan+Mallett+works+on+a+strengthening+exercise+to+increase+mobility.+Mallett+has+been+in+occupational+therapy+since+the+2020+crash+that+left+him+quadriplegic.
Austin Ikard
WORKING HARD: Former Bowie quarterback Evan Mallett works on a strengthening exercise to increase mobility. Mallett has been in occupational therapy since the 2020 crash that left him quadriplegic.

In a singular moment, the trajectory of Evan Mallett’s life changed. Despite taking and bouncing back from countless hits on the gridiron as a Bowie quarterback, this collision would prove to be much more difficult to overcome.

On April 25, 2020, Mallett was involved in a single-car accident that rendered him quadriplegic. For nearly a month after the crash, Mallett remained in the severe trauma intensive care unit (ICU) at St. David’s Medical Center in downtown Austin, where he was treated for a fractured neck, spine, and skull.

“Being in the hospital put it in perspective, what could have happened,” Mallett said. “I knew I was pretty messed up, but the nurse told me that I probably should have died. It was almost like a feeling of second chances. Like, it was a very unfortunate situation, but it could have not been a situation at all. It could have just been nothing.”

While being treated in the St. David’s ICU, doctors discovered pneumonia in Mallett’s lungs. As a result, Mallett was transferred to Tier Memorial in Houston, where he was placed on a ventilator until he regained the ability to breathe unassisted.

“It was pretty brutal, because I would feel myself breathing by myself, and then I’d have to be plugged back into the ventilator,” Mallett said. “It was hard. I would try to go against the ventilator as best I could. The feeling of breathing myself was the type of thing I wanted back.”

To progress past the need for the ventilator, doctors would test Mallett with timed checkpoints of breathing unassisted. Eventually, roughly two months after the wreck, doctors determined Mallett no longer needed the ventilator to breathe, thereby enabling the former quarterback to talk and eat solid food for the first time as well.

The ongoing challenges are also the motivators for me to go to college and live my life. I have my goals and I know that I’ll achieve them.

— Evan Mallett, Former Quarterback

“Hearing my voice was hard at first because it took a lot to get the words out, but it definitely felt good,” Mallett said. “It was progress, and that was the biggest thing, which was that we were taking steps forward for me to eventually go home.”

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, contact with Mallett was strictly limited in the subsequent months of the crash. In order to show support, lifelong friend and then teammate Mark Chada, a current junior at the University of Texas, organized and participated in an overnight vigil while Mallett was in the hospital.

“Honestly, it was very hard at the beginning to see Evan,” Chada said. “I had known him so long that it almost didn’t seem real. I know everyone says that tragedies similar to Evan’s cause you to see life from a different perspective that allows you to appreciate the little things. Having something happen to a close friend really forced me to take that to heart.”

At the time of the crash, Mallett was preparing for his third and final season as the Bulldogs quarterback. Four years later, Mallett recognizes that a return to the gridiron is unlikely, yet he continues to find alternate avenues to regain the thrill of competitive sport.

“One of the biggest things I miss is football,” Mallett said. “The gravity of my situation compared to football makes it seem like nothing, but I love football, and I miss playing it. My goal has been to find pathways to do things like football just in a different way.”

Specifically, Mallett has taken an interest in Wheelchair Rugby, which has been a Summer Paralympic sport since 2000. Chada asserts that Mallet’s innate determination to improve his situation is contagious.

“I still see Evan when we both get the chance,” Chada said. “We are both very busy, but we make time to just hang out. Seeing him do daily tasks and especially getting better at them really shows how strong he is. He even started driving recently and is thinking about joining a rugby team, which is pretty cool. Evan is a great friend to have and seeing him push himself every week makes me want to push myself as well.”

WORKING HARD: Former Bowie quarterback Evan Mallett works on a strengthening exercise to increase mobility. Mallett has been in occupational therapy since the 2020 crash that left him quadriplegic. (REPRINT FROM 2021) (Photo Courtesy of JR Flores)

Head football coach Jeff Ables coached Mallett for his sophomore and junior years as varsity quarterback. However, according to Ables, Mallett was a leader first and foremost and represented the program at the highest level.

“He’s an example of how something can happen in your life, and you can take what’s happened and make the best of it,” Ables said. “He had a great attitude, and he was always a competitor. That fighting spirit after his injury made him able to get back to where he needed to be and overcome what had happened.”

Mallett was still named team captain for his senior year, despite the fact he never put on football pads again. His journey spurred a new perspective and appreciation of the sport throughout the entire football program.

“Life is precious,” Ables said. “You never know what’s going to happen, and you can’t take anything for granted. As a coach, you try to remind your players that [football] is just a game. Everybody likes to win, but it’s really about trying to make an impact and a difference in a kid’s life every day.”

Along with being named varsity captain for the 2020 season, Mallett was honored as the 2020 homecoming king. Beyond the football team and Bulldog community, Mallett was also recognized by Kendra Scott and Craig O’s Pasta and Pizzeria, both of which organized fundraisers on his behalf.

“It was surreal going back to Burger Stadium for the first time,” Mallett said. “A lot of my family and friends were there. It meant a lot, and it was nice because I met a lot of people that had supported me behind the scenes, so I got to thank them.”

For the past four years, Mallett has been on a mission to live his life on his terms. In order to do so, Josey Silva, an occupational therapist, has channeled Mallett’s determination into relearning functional tasks like cooking and driving.

“I’m very impressed with his attitude because a lot of people give up and feel sorry for themselves, but not him,” Silva said. “He will try anything and keep trying until he gets it. He’s very well adjusted and ready to move on to do whatever he can to be successful.”

Since the wreck, Mallett has graduated from Bowie, and he currently attends classes at Austin Community College. A sophomore in terms of credits, Mallett plans to transfer to the University of Texas in the fall of 2024, where he study business. 

“When you first initially get hurt, a lot of people think their life is over,” Mallett said. “When I got into the wreck, I got a whole new perspective on everything. It’s given me a new appreciation of the small things.”

Mallett’s injury has resulted in ongoing challenges, including a lower back surgery in 2022. Still, Mallett continues to maximize life’s possibilities with his unwavering resolve and work ethic.

“The setbacks that I’ve had have probably been the hardest part over the past four years,” Mallett said. “But, the ongoing challenges are also the motivators for me to go to college and live my life. I kind of look at each setback as a bump in the road. At the end of the day, I have my goals and I know that I’ll achieve them one day.”

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