Darren Waller Announces Retirement from the NFL amid Kelsey Plum Divorce

  • Darren Waller announced his retirement from the NFL
  • The Giants tight end revealed a health scare in November forced him to reevaluate his life
  • In April, Waller told PEOPLE he feels like his life “hasn’t really started” because of the sacrifices he’s made for his career

New York Giants tight end Darren Waller has officially announced his retirement from football.

Waller, 31, detailed his decision in a YouTube video called “Straight from Darren Waller: A Beautiful Journey,” revealing that a health scare in November forced him to “rethink” his career and other aspects of his life.

The former tight end said he began feeling sick a few days after he was injured in the Giants’ loss to the Jets on Oct. 29. Waller described the frightening moments when he began “losing consciousness” and became unable to breathe, comparing the feeling to when he overdosed on drugs in 2017.

Ultimately, Waller said he spent three days in the hospital but did not share details about the illness or a diagnosis.

“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 if I would have died that I would have felt great about how my life was going if I died at that time,” he shared.

Darren Waller attempts a catch over Jalen Thompson during their game at Allegiant Stadium on September 18, 2022.

Jeff Bottari/Getty

“This is an opportunity for me to kind of, take the power back in my life, start to make choices for myself, take control,” Waller shared. “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, at this point, it’s about becoming who I really am.”

Waller, a 2020 Pro-Bowl select, said he is “eternally grateful” for football’s impact on his life and spoke highly of the “great connections” and “great memories” he’s made in his career.

The announcement comes shortly after the NFL star and his ex-wife, WNBA champion Kelsey Plum filed for divorce. Waller and Plum, 29, were married for just one year.

Kelsey Plum (L) of the Las Vegas Aces and tight end Darren Waller.

Ethan Miller/Getty

In April, PEOPLE spent time with Waller in Las Vegas as he was contemplating whether or not to return to the NFL this season, where he said, “I don’t feel like I’ve really done a lot. In some ways, my life hasn’t really started.”

Waller added, “And I’m at the point now where I’m like, ‘Is this something that I want to continue to invest my time, invest my body, invest my mind in?”

While many athletes retire once they feel like their bodies are no longer capable of playing at the professional level, Waller said his athletic ability is still there.

Instead, he said, the decision to retire was inspired by his life away from the field. “There have been injuries in the picture, but as far as what I’m able to do when I’m on the field and how fresh and explosive and just the ability to still do my job well, it’s still there.”

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Waller expressed that he spent so much time and energy on football, earning a Pro-Bowl selection in 2020, but found that success in the NFL comes at the cost of his other interests.

“I’m a guy who’s into a lot more than football,” Waller told PEOPLE. “And football’s done a lot for me, I’m so grateful, but it’s a grind, and you’ve got to be 100% willing to suit up for it, and I’ve got to decide if I’m 100% or not.”

Waller has been releasing rap music since 2021 and hosts a podcast called Comeback Stories. He told PEOPLE he plans to continue exploring those paths in retirement. He’s also looking forward to traveling and “doing a lot of the things I haven’t really done before,” he said in April.

Darren Waller #83 of the Las Vegas Raiders runs downfield during an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on September 25, 2022.
Kevin Sabitus/Getty

“Getting out and exploring the world, exploring more of who I am,” Waller added to the list. “I feel like there’s a lot more of that to do. So starting with just being of service through the foundation work, creating, making music, traveling and go from there.”

Waller is also well known for his transparency around his struggle with addiction to drugs and alcohol. In 2017, Waller nearly lost his life after overdosing on drugs laced with fentanyl. As a result, the NFL suspended him for one year for abusing banned substances.

In Nov. 2022, Waller told PEOPLE he’s realized, “from getting sober to getting back into the league, to getting to where I am now in my career, there have always been challenges, there’s always been adversity there and you had to rise above it.”

Waller recalled, “One thing I remember was John Harbaugh, when I was in Baltimore, he would always say, and he made his t-shirts said, ‘Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.'”

“You have to push yourself, you have to strain, you have to go past what you may think your limit is in order for you to see something different; get a different result, go to a different level,” he added.

Waller was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He has also played for the Las Vegas Raiders and ends his career as a New York Giant.

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