Giants’ Darren Waller opens up about near-death experience that forced him to re-evaluate life and football

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New York Giants tight end Darren Waller announced his shocking decision to retire from the NFL at age 31 in a video posted to social media over the weekend. 

However, in the nearly 18-minute long video posted to YouTube on Sunday, the veteran NFL player opened up about a terrifying medical emergency that he says played a big role in making that decision. 

New York Giants tight end Darren Waller, #12, in the tunnel against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Dec. 25, 2023. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Waller, who played one season in New York last year, said that he was injured during the Giants’ Week 8 loss to the New York Jets, which forced him to remain back and rehab as the Giants traveled to Las Vegas for their game against the Raiders. 


During that time, Waller said he also recorded the music video for his single “Faith Test.” However, it was on the way home that the former NFL player said he began not to feel well, thinking it might be another bout of COVID. 

By the time I pull into my parking garage at my condo and get out the car, I’m shaking pretty violently, uncontrollably to where I was like ‘This is a little weird, a little different. This one’s just going to be a little more difficult than before, I guess.’” 

Waller said he tried to sleep it off, but he woke up early the next morning unable to breathe. He then called 911. 

“It was a very scary situation. I ended up going to the hospital – was in there for three and half days… It was an experience that would sober somebody up and make them think, at least.”

darren waller

Darren Waller, #12 of the New York Giants, runs onto the field prior to a game against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 2, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)


“And I say all that because 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 it’s pretty clear I almost just lost my life,” he continued. “And 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 if I died at the time.”

Waller did not elaborate on what caused the medical episode, but he did say that it forced him to take a closer look and examine his life, including his marriage and football. 

“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.”

Darren Walle

New York Giants tight end Darren Waller, #12, catches the ball during the first half of a game against the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Oct. 22, 2023. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)


Waller was limited to 12 games and had 52 catches for 552 yards and a touchdown in his only season with the Giants. He has been open about his struggles with addiction, as well as dealing with depression and anxiety.

“I’m eternally grateful for the game of football,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to have this conversation or to think things through or be self-reflective if it wasn’t for an opportunity to save my life and go to rehab, which the NFL offered me. They also gave me an opportunity to reestablish myself to come back into the world and do something productive, provide an example, be a leader, be a difference maker in my craft, but also just in the day to day wherever I go.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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