In today’s NFL world with 24/7 news, fantasy football, and the fan’s desire to see their team win, we can tend to forget that these players are human, like us. Darren Waller’s story is a tale of failure and redemption that has caught the NFL world by storm.
Many people did not have Waller on their fantasy radar this season, and for justifiable reasons. Waller was drafted in 2015 by the Baltimore Ravens and was on a fast track to being out of the NFL for good. Waller served a 4 game suspension in 2016 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and in June of 2016, Waller was served a 1-year suspension without pay for again violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
During an interview on Hard Knocks this year, Waller opened up about his time in Baltimore and his authenticity began to take the NFL world by storm. Waller admitted during his interview that he would take opiates, even heroin and shared a story about how he went to get drugs in Baltimore one day, which turned out to be his rock bottom moment. Little did he know, this trip would be his last, and could have been the last thing he ever did. The drugs he bought were laced with a deadly opiate called fentanyl which is 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Waller goes on to say that he overdosed a ¼ mile away from the Ravens practice facility.
The Oakland Raiders, who are known for signing misfits jumped on the opportunity to grab this 6’6 stud who was released from Baltimore. After a year learning behind Jared Cook, the Raiders and Gruden knew he was going to be their guy at TE, if he could manage to keep out of trouble. Gruden’s old school tough love approach along with Derek Carr’s leadership has been great for Waller
Waller says today he is playing with a purpose and has been sober ever since that experience where he almost died. The best part about this story is how he managed to make it to the NFL while being addicted and now that he is sober he is playing his best football. In fact, he is even up for a pro-bowl selection in his first full season in the NFL with the Raiders. Waller, who could of died ¼ way away from his practice field in now playing a major role with the Raiders who very much in the mix for a playoff bid during their miracle last season in Oakland.
The storyline is fitting, against all odds the Raiders are playing great football and Waller’s comeback story is a major key to their success. Waller has found a home with the Raiders and a commitment to excellence.