Darren Waller has gone from the practice squad to earning his first Pro Bowl selection in two years, and he's thankful for one thing.
On the latest episode of the Huddle and Flow podcast with Jim Trotter and Steve Wyche, Waller shared what it means to be named to the Pro Bowl and how he couldn't have achieved success without experiencing struggles along the way.
"The first word that pops into my mind: Necessary," Waller said when asked how he'd describe his journey. "There's a lot of — the ways that I approached life back then, I wanted other people to approve of me, other people to affirm me, and I just wanted to be accepted. I didn't want to stand out; I wanted to be normal. I didn't want to be different, but it's like now, where my life has turned and changed, I've been able to set myself apart by being different.
"Going against the grain and doing a lot of things that other people might not be doing, that's what's helped me get to this place today. So, I had to fail, I had to go through everything, and it was necessary for me to be sitting here on this call today."
Waller's well-documented triumph against drug addiction has inspired many across the country and his on-the-field success has allowed him to share his story with others. Through 14 games this season, Waller's amassed 93 receptions (a career-high), 967 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns (also a career-high). For his position, he trails only Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in receiving yards, and he's top-15 overall if you include traditional wideouts.
Waller gained the attention of his peers a season ago with his breakout performance, but in 2020, he earned their respect with his first-ever Pro Bowl selection.
"It's definitely an honor [being selected] because you can't trick those guys that are in the trenches with you," Waller shared. "They know the game and who's really putting the work in to succeed, so it means a lot to me coming from the guys that I'm going to war with — that definitely means the most."
The Pro Bowl is an honor not many players receive, but it's not the end goal for Waller. This is just a chapter in his story and there's still a lot to be written, but it's satisfying for him, and a moment he can reflect on. The Raiders tight end feels blessed to reach this point in his life, but he'll wake up tomorrow, and every day after that, eager to get right back to work.
"I feel like in order for me to best show that I deserve this award is to continue to improve, continue to grow, and not settle on this."
With his selection to the 2021 Pro Bowl, view the top photos of tight end Darren Waller during the 2020 season so far.