Current Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller spoke of hope Wednesday at Osborne High School.
Waller, a former North Cobb High School and Georgia Tech standout, came to the school at the invitation of friend and former teammate Travis Hawkins, who is now a student support specialist at Osborne. Waller talked to more than 400 students, who were comprised of students, student-athletes and “at risk” students.
At risk students are those that are struggling in school and who could end up failing. Waller has recently started the “Darren Waller Foundation” to help those students overcome their problems. The foundation slogan is “Dealing Hope to At-Risk Youth.”
Waller spent time sharing his story of how he overcame drug addiction to become a star in the NFL, and following his presentation, he took questions and had personal conversations with students.
After being a sixth-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2015. In 2016, Waller was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. In 2017, he was suspended for the entire season for another substance-abuse policy violation.
Waller, in an episode on NFL’s Hard Knocks on HBO said he was getting high every day. He was using opiates like OxyContin, Xanax, and cocaine. He didn’t care about anything.
The 27-year old told the Osborne crowd his turning point was when he overdosed one day in his car and for six hours he feared for his life. Shortly thereafter, he changed his life around and got serious about rehab.
In 2018, he was reinstated by the NFL. The Ravens cut him at the end of training camp and put on the practice squad.
Waller told the students he originally did drugs in high school to win the approval of students and friends. It wasn’t until he landed on the practice squad where he finally began to seek help, and began to help himself.
“(Baltimore Director of Player Development Harry Swayne) was a big part of (helping me),” Waller said on Glenn Clark Radio in February. “(Team clinician) Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley and Johnny Shelton — the team chaplain — those three were the biggest allies for me. Those were the first people I kind of started opening up to before things really got out of control while I was in Baltimore. I wasn’t completely 100 percent honest with them but that was the first step in the right direction of telling someone what I was dealing with. So those three really helped me through that whole process and never saw me any differently from the bad times to the good times and they’ll still call and check on me and I’ll still have conversations with them. Those three people were really there for me.”
During the 2018 season, the Raiders signed him off the Ravens practice squad and he made a good first impression.
Last season, Waller finally reached his potential catching 90 passes for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns. He was an alternate for the Pro Bowl. For his efforts, the Raiders signed him to a four-year, $30 million contract in October.
He challenged the Osborne students to unapologetically be themselves and be real about where they are.