Former Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller has announced his retirement from the NFL at the age of 31, following a harrowing health scare and a single season with the New York Giants. Waller’s decision came just before the Giants’ mandatory minicamp, as confirmed by a team statement expressing deep respect for his contributions on and off the field. “We have great respect for Darren as a person and player,” the Giants stated. “We wish him nothing but the best.”

Waller, who was traded from the Las Vegas Raiders to the Giants last year in exchange for a third-round draft pick, detailed his reasons for retiring in a heartfelt YouTube video. He recounted a severe episode last season where he experienced alarming symptoms that escalated rapidly, leading to a significant hospital stay.

“Last season in New Jersey, we played the Jets on October 29,” Waller explained. “I got hurt that game. The following week, the Giants were playing the Raiders in Vegas. … I started to feel like this fever coming on. … The fever starts to build, I start to get the chills and stuff like that. By the time I pull into my parking garage at my condo and get out of the car, I’m, like, shaking pretty violently, like uncontrollably.”

The situation worsened the next morning when Waller found himself unable to breathe, prompting a 911 call and a subsequent three-and-a-half-day hospitalization. “Was pretty clear I almost just lost my life,” he reflected, noting that the life-threatening experience forced him to reconsider his priorities.

Despite not disclosing the specific medical condition, Waller shared that the incident profoundly impacted his outlook on life and career. “I don’t know if I really feel like if I would’ve died that I would’ve felt great about how my life was going,” he admitted, revealing a shift in his life’s passions and questioning the conventional path of sticking to one career.

Waller, who had been mulling retirement throughout the offseason, had a successful eight-season career in the NFL, including a standout Pro Bowl season in 2020 with the Raiders. He remained a key player for the Giants last season, starting 12 games and recording 52 catches for 522 yards and a touchdown. Beyond football, Waller has also ventured into music, recently releasing a video that touches on his personal life, including his divorce from WNBA All-Star Kelsey Plum.

With Waller’s departure, the Giants are likely to look towards younger talents like third-year tight end Daniel Bellinger and newly drafted Theo Johnson from Penn State, to fill the gap. Waller’s retirement will also provide the Giants with $11.6 million in salary cap relief, though it will incur dead cap hits over the next two seasons.

As Waller steps away from the gridiron, his future endeavors remain uncertain, but his recent experiences and reflections suggest a man ready to explore new paths and passions beyond football.



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