Giants TE Darren Waller Opens Up About Decision to Retire

A near-death experience made the veteran tight end reassess his life's direction.
East Rutherford, NJ     October 22, 2023 -- Darren Waller of the Giants at the end of the game. The NY Giants host the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on October 22, 2023.
East Rutherford, NJ October 22, 2023 -- Darren Waller of the Giants at the end of the game. The NY Giants host the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on October 22, 2023. / Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com / USA
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A scary near-death experience played a significant factor in New York Giants tight end Darren Waller’s decision to retire after eight NFL seasons.

Waller, who spoke from the heart in a 17-minute long video posted on his YouTube channel, spoke about his journey over the last four months when the thought of retiring first entered into his head. 

“It's been in this last four months quite a journey for me,” a relaxed and calm Waller said . “It makes me look back on getting sober from drugs and alcohol as like, really just like the tip of the iceberg, when really it's like, that's a big deal and should not be discounted. 

“But really learning that, you know, the drugs and alcohol are really just a symptom of deeper issues, deeper rooted things that what I've learned in these last four months has me like, ‘Aha! Like that's the reason that I am the way that I am.

"And so yeah, it's brought me to the point of rethinking my career and leaving my marriage. These are things that I've had to, you know, evaluate and see like, are these a hundred percent yeses for me?”

Waller, who was one of the best tight ends in the game at the height of his career, has sought solace in creating music and has been working on various videos and an album to launch the next chapter of his life.

But one incident seemed to be the tipping point in Waller's decision. That happened last season after he suffered an injury in a game against the Jets that landed him on injured reserve.

Waller recalled being left behind in New Jersey the following week while his teammates played the Las Vegas Raiders on the road. He spent part of his downtime working on a music video. After he finished, he was on his way back home when suddenly he began to feel ill. 

Waller initially thought he was coming down with COVID, which he had had twice before and which had hit him hard. But he soon realized that what he was experiencing wasn’t what he thought it was.   

“The fever starts to build, I start to get the chills and stuff like that. By the time I pulled into my parking garage at my condo and got out of the car, I was shaking pretty violently, uncontrollably to where I was like, ‘This is a little weird, a little different. This one's just gonna be a little bit more difficult than before, I guess’” Waller recalled.

“I get to my room and I'm like, ‘All right, I'm gonna just go lay in the bed and sweat the bed out. I woke up fine in the morning, but then I couldn't breathe and found myself like my head starting to nod and losing consciousness.”

Waller said he fought to keep himself focused by watching television, but when his condition didn’t improve, he called 911.

“I think I'm talking clearly on the phone, but they can't make me out or make out much of what I'm saying,” Waller said. 

“So I realized I kind of had to go with the nodding and breathe deep, and then they finally got my address. And I get up and put a shoe in the front door to prop the door open.”

Waller, who struggled to catch his breath, said the incident reminded him of an overdose he once experienced. While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, he mustered what strength he could to yell for help in hopes that a neighbor might hear him, but eventually, paramedics arrived to transport him to the hospital. 

“It was a very scary situation. I ended up going to the hospital, was in there for three and a half days, and couldn't stand up and use a bathroom or feed myself,” he said.

“I come out of that experience, and I'm sitting in the hospital and I go back into my daily life, and I'm like, pretty clear. I almost just lost my life. And I don't know if I really feel like I would've died, that I would've felt great about how my life was going if I died at the time.”

That’s when Waller, whom the Giants acquired via trade from the Las Vegas Raiders in the 2023 off-season, began questioning whether football was worth pursuing.

“I'm doing something that I found a lot of joy in and have had amazing moments with. But the passion has slowly been fading,” he said. 

“I'm with a person that is a great person, but I just feel so many things inside of me being driven by codependency.” 

Waller, who revealed that he owes the Giants about a million in bonus money, said in the end his decision came down to doing what he wanted to do, not what was expected of him.

“I feel like I've spent most of my life doing what I should be doing and measuring that in the eyes of what people would expect from me,” he said. “I've been a people pleaser my whole life, somebody that has struggled with worth, confidence, feeling valuable.”

Rather than continue to be a people pleaser, Waller reflected and realized it was time to start pleasing himself by doing what he saw fit.

“It was just the opportunity for me to kind of take back the power in my life, to start to make choices for myself, take control and you know, whether my passions or the things that I want to be interested in going forward,” he said.

“It's like, you know, at least if I'm gonna be in a situation where because I don't know how much time I have left on this earth. I've lived a lot of life in 31 years. I should have died at least four times at least. But I'm still here. So it's like, you know, at this point, it's, it's about, you know, becoming who I really am.”

Waller ended his video by thanking those who believed in his football talents and took a chance on him. He also expressed no regrets about having pursued his childhood dream of playing football. 

“So many people to thank,” he said after naming a few key mentors in his life. “I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to have connected with all of you and in whatever way that I have you know.

“I'm not disappearing off the face of the earth. I'm shifting, I'm turning. I'm gonna be going wherever God has taken me next. But this journey will always be something that I hold dear and has helped me to grow and continue to grow as a man and in my character. 

“And if you see me, holler at me, talk to me you know I love y'all, appreciate you.”



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Patricia Traina

PATRICIA TRAINA

Patricia Traina has covered the New York Giants for over three decades for various media outlets. She is the host of the Locked On Giants podcast and the author of "The Big 50: New York Giants: The Men and Moments that Made the New York Giants" (Triumph Books, September 2020). View Patricia's full bio.