The girlfriend of former NFL quarterback Ryan Mallett, who died last week in an apparent drowning off a Florida Panhandle beach, said she tried hard to save him.
"I trust that God has a plan for everything, but I don't think I will ever understand why this happened," Madison Carter wrote on Facebook. "I'm so sorry I couldn't save you, and I hope you know how hard I tried."
First responders were called to the scene after a group of people were spotted in the water near a sandbar struggling to make their way back to shore, the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office said.
Mallett was among the group and was pulled out of the ocean by lifeguards after going underwater but was not breathing when he made it back to shore, the sheriff's office said.
Carter described Mallett as talented, dedicated and passionate.
"Those of us who were lucky enough to know your heart know that it was even bigger than your larger-than-life personality and stature. Nothing was ever about you, it was always about others," she wrote.
"Words cannot convey how badly I miss you. I hope you know how loved you are. By myself, your amazing family, your friends, your teammates, your students, and countless others. I don't know how I'll ever get past this. But I'm so honored to love you and be loved by you. You changed my life, and I'm forever grateful for the time we had."
Mallett was a star with the Arkansas Razorbacks before he was drafted in 2011 in the third round by the New England Patriots, the NFL said. He spent seven years in the NFL with the Patriots, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens.
He played in 21 games, went 3-5 as a starter, and compiled 1,835 passing yards, nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions, the NFL said. His career ended in 2017.
Palm Beach County
Recent Florida drownings sound alarm about dangerous rip currents
Authorities had been warning beachgoers as rip currents claimed at least 11 lives in two weeks last month along the Gulf Coast.
Yellow flags indicating "a medium hazard, moderate surf and/or currents" were flying along Destin beaches, though "there were no rip currents present in the area in which we responded to Ryan Mallett," the Destin Fire Control District said in a statement.
Mallett's death "seems to be just a tragic accident and not something to do with the conditions of the surf or tides or currents," Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden said.
NFL star Tom Brady shared online a photo of himself and former Patriots teammate Mallett on the field. "We lost a great man. Thank you for everything Ryan," Brady wrote on Instagram. "Praying for the Mallett family and all their loved ones tonight."
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