University of Miami incoming prep star Will Mallory, the other half of the soon-to-be No. 1 freshman tight-end tandem in the nation, said he was about 12 years old when former UM tight end Jimmy Graham would sneak him "snacks and treats under the table" during New Orleans Saints' position meetings.
Mallory was in fourth grade in 2010 when he got to know Jeremy Shockey and watched him catch the go-ahead touchdown at Hard Rock Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl.
Then, he met Shockey again seven years later when he attended coach Mark Richt's 2017 Paradise Camp.
"I was walking and he said, 'Hey, Will,' Mallory recalled. "I turned around and said, 'What's up?'
He said, 'You were a lot smaller the last time I saw you.'"
Mallory's dad, Mike, a former Michigan football star who is the Jacksonville Jaguars' assistant special teams coordinator and former Saints' assistant special teams coach, undoubtedly had an influence on Will's football career— as did his grandfather Bill Mallory, a former head coach at Miami of Ohio, Colorado, Northern Illinois and Indiana. But now, the 6-5, 220-pound 18-year-old, rated the nation's No. 3 tight end by ESPN.com and No. 8 by 247Sports, is expected to make a name for himself after graduating from Jacksonville Providence School Saturday, arriving on campus Sunday and beginning college classes Monday.
Mallory will be accompanied for the start of his freshman journey by the other Hurricanes who arrived this past weekend and help make up the 23-strong 2018 signing class.
"Earlier in the year I thought I was going to be sad and nervous leaving,'' Mallory told the Miami Herald on Friday, immediately after his graduation rehearsal. "But honestly, right now I'm ready to get down there. Brevin and I are both ready to get there.''
Brevin Jordan is the nation's No. 1 prep tight end expected to be on the field with Mallory as the Canes look to reclaim the moniker "Tight End U.'' If these future roommates are even close to as good as they've been in high school, the two-headed monster theme will eventually take shape.
"You have two really big athletes who can both do the same things and different things on the field,'' said Mallory, known for his soft hands, graceful giant gait and ideal physique for a tight end — despite needing to put on the 15 pounds or so he plans to add by the end of the season. "Having us both together on the field will be a mismatch for defenses. The way the coaches want to use us will be a really, really good fit and kind of scary for other people.''
Mallory sustained a concussion last August during Nike's The Opening in Oregon. Then, he said when he returned to play in the third game of the season for Providence, he almost immediately severely sprained his right ankle. He didn't return until three games were left in his senior season, but did plenty of on-field damage nonetheless. Against Episcopal, Mallory caught 11 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the season with 21 catches for 364 yards and three scores.
His junior season, Mallory caught 46 passes for 900 yards and 12 touchdowns.
He also plays golf and played basketball and ran track for Providence, but said he will stick to only football at Miami.
"He can run,'' UM tight ends coach Todd Hartley said of Mallory. "He's got great length. He really reminds you of a young [former Cane and current Cleveland Brown] David Njoku. "He's a track star like David was [and] he has unbelievable hands, a great kid, highly intelligent — just a matchup nightmare on the perimeter.''
Hartley said that at Paradise Camp, "nobody could catch the dude. ... He's an unbelievable route-runner [and] catches everything thrown his way.''
Mallory said during a visit to UM, Hartley popped in a highlight reel of Njoku as a Hurricane. "Then he put my highlights up next to it from high school. We were basically playing the same position and doing the same exact things. The vision they had was something I believe in. It's a perfect fit.''
Mallory naturally considered Michigan, where his father was a Butkus Award finalist in 1985 as an exceptional linebacker, and liked Georgia, too, "but there was something about Miami,'' he said. "I like the coaches and the big city and smaller school. You really can't beat being in Miami. It's a pretty nice place to be living. And I've never heard anything bad about Coach [Mark] Richt — ever. ''
Mallory, unlike Jordan, is a laid back, mellow young man.
"But once you get to know me you probably couldn't get me to stop talking,'' he said. "On game day I'm pretty focused. I'm not the guy who hollers and screams and jumps up and down. But I'm aggressive and know what's going on and play hard.''
Mallory has a 22-year-old sister Kathryn who attends Florida. His mom Kim, another Michigan alum, has dealt with the family moving from Illinois, where Will was born, to Maryland, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and now Atlantic Beach , just east of Jacksonville. Will's dad has had several college coaching jobs as well as his NFL ones, including defensive coordinator at Illinois, Northern Illinois and Rhode Island.
"We're all in on Miami now,'' Kim said. "Will's my baby, so empty nest syndrome is about to begin. But I know he's ready and looking forward to it, and that's what you want as a parent.''