Darren Waller has been viewed as an underrated star for the Oakland Raiders heading into his second season with the team. With his size, speed, and ability to easily defeat defensive backs in coverage, the tight end from Georgia Tech is viewed by everyone on the team as the very capable replacement for the departed Jared Cook. However, this journey to hidden gem was not an easy one for Waller. First, he had to fight through some demons.
Originally a member of the Baltimore Ravens, Waller missed the entire 2017 season after being suspended for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. It was Waller’s second suspension since entering the league as a sixth-round pick in 2015 and caused some questions about his mindset during this period of his career.
Waller shared insight into his battle with drugs during the most recent episode of Hard Knocks, which painted a troubling picture of what he could get away with during his time in Baltimore.
The story of Darren Waller is pretty remarkable. Good to see a person bounce back from the bottom to a success story.
He loses points from me for never watching Fight Club, but everyone should to root for him to stay in the right path. pic.twitter.com/rV7YFQJdgZ— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 21, 2019
"I was in Baltimore, I was just like a vegetable," Waller said. "I was getting high, literally, every day. Whatever I could get my hands on. Like opiates first, like oxy pills, stuff like that. Xanax, cocaine. Not caring about anything, any kind of consequences, or anything like that."
Despite the concerns of off-the-field issues, Waller has been clean for two years and is ready to become a bonafide playmaker for the Oakland Raiders. To his name, Waller has 18 receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns in four seasons. Fairly low numbers overall, but quarterback Derek Carr has complete faith that Waller will become a trusted figure in the passing attack.
"Darren has the skill set, he has the want to, he has the aggression to do it," Carr said during OTAs. "Now, he just has to go do it. I'm really excited about him. Darren Waller is super, super fast if I'm being real, and he works his tail off. He's very smart. I can check a play within two seconds of the play clock being out, and he'll be on it and run the right thing. He's super fun to be around, he's a great guy."
Speed and raw talent are important factors in Waller's quest to continue his dream of playing in the NFL, but it will be up to him to remain clean and prove that his battles with personal demons are in the past. After two years away from drug use, he is well on his way to becoming a critical member of the Raiders, and the team couldn't be more excited about his future.