Over the past three seasons, Raiders star Darren Waller has terrorized opposing defenses. During that span, the Pro Bowl tight end has 252 catches for 3,006 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Not only is Waller emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the NFL, he’s making an impact off the field. This past season, he was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Earlier this month, Waller’s dedication to the community was recognized. He was selected to receive Pop Warner’s 2022 Inspiration to Youth Award, which is given to an individual who has “inspired the youth of today to become great achievers of tomorrow.”
In addition to his work in the community, Waller is partnering up with some exciting brands off the field. It was recently announced that he’s joining forces with Icy Hot as part of their “PRO Time Off” campaign.
We caught up with Darren Waller to discuss the Raiders’ offseason moves, Josh McDaniels, his partnership with Icy Hot and more.
The Spun: Can you tell me about your partnership with Icy Hot and the “PRO Time Off” campaign?
Darren Waller: The partnership with Icy Hot revolves around the “PRO Time Off” campaign. It made a lot of sense for me to partner with Icy Hot because I’m somebody who has to navigate the pain that comes with my job on a day-to-day basis without going to the means I used to try to deal with pain before. I feel like Icy Hot is in line with that and we have similar values. The new Icy Hot Pro product is something I’m using and I’m going to be using. I’m just excited to share this with people, and hopefully, they can take it and apply it to their routines.
The Spun: The Raiders had a busy offseason to say the least. What was your initial reaction to the team acquiring Davante Adams?
DW: At first, you’re like, ‘Is this really happening?’ But I’m excited for sure. The more weapons, the better in this league. It’s all about how you can expose different matchups, and the more matchups you can expose, the better. Adding him to the mix with Hunter [Renfrow], Josh [Jacobs] and myself is exciting. He’s a good guy to be around on a daily basis. He’s already meshing really well with us.
The Spun: The Raiders also made a change at head coach. What is your early impression of Josh McDaniels?
DW: I like Coach McDaniels a lot. He’s very detail-oriented. He doesn’t sugarcoat things, but you can tell he wants to know guys and have relationships with them. He won’t let things slide under the rug. Things that need to be addressed will be addressed, and I respect that a lot. It’s all about winning and doing things the right way with him. I’m around Mick Lombardi, he’s the OC and he runs our tight end room. There’s a high standard being set with this staff. It should help us take another step [in the right direction].
The Spun: McDaniels will be the third coach you’ve had in the past 12 months. How does the locker room overcome these coaching changes?
DW: The core leadership of the team allows us to overcome adversity. Guys like Derek [Carr], Maxx [Crosby] Kolton Miller and myself stay committed to the process and journey. All these individual days stack up. We can get caught up in things and ask why they’re happening, but we just keep our heads down and try to stay committed to the process. This is a player-driven league, so it’s on our backs first and foremost.
The Spun: You mentioned Derek Carr. What makes your connection with him so special?
DW: I think a lot of on-field success starts with enjoying being around people and enjoying their company. When you have that in place, it creates a relationship where you don’t want to let somebody down. You’ll go to lengths to show up for that person because you care about them. I want to be the best teammate I can possibly be, and we both want to be the best individual players we can. We’re constantly trying to make progress.
The Spun: You were named the recipient of Pop Warner's 2022 Inspiration to Youth Award. What did that mean to you?
DW: Receiving awards like this still leaves me in disbelief because I lived my life and I know what it was like before this. To be recognized as somebody who is inspirational to the young people is definitely an honor and it makes me reflect on my journey and how I wasn’t an inspiration to the youth for so long. I don’t know if anybody sees that, but hopefully they can see that your journey to wherever you want to go doesn’t need to be perfect. You can still arrive to where you’re supposed to be and become the person you want to be, no matter how many times you fail.
The Spun: What's your advice to the incoming rookie class about handling life in the NFL?
DW: To the young players, I would say in a world where we’re so result-driven, be more committed to the process than the results. As long as you continue to improve, you’ll get the opportunity you’re looking for. When that opportunity comes up, you’ll be ready for it. Don’t be so worried about when the results will come, they’ll take care of themselves.
The Spun: I recently saw a video of you showing off your "Happy Gilmore" swing. What would you rate your swing out of 10?
DW: So that was this week at the Raiders Golf Classic. Most people don’t know that I whiffed on the first swing. That was the second swing I took. I can’t play golf, but if the internet thinks I can, that’s not true. I just went up with my eyes closed and swung.
The Spun: Who has given you a really fun/tough matchup so far in your career?
DW: My favorite player to compete against is Derwin James. We’ll just joke around throughout the game when going up against each other. It’s a mutual respect thing between us. He’ll win some reps, I’ll win some reps.
The Spun: The AFC West loaded up on talent this offseason. Is it fair to say it’s the best division, on paper, heading into the season?
DW: Absolutely. Like you said, on paper, it’s not even a question. So much talent was added to an already loaded division. It’s going to be a bloodbath for sure. We’re going to need some Icy Hot PRO for the AFC West.
The Spun: How confident are you during those marquee matchups knowing Derek Carr is your quarterback?
DW: My trust in Derek couldn’t be any higher. He’s someone who welcomes those tough matchups. He makes himself ready for that moment, mentally and physically. I’ll take Derek every time.
The Spun: What do the Raiders need to improve in order to take that next step?
DW: We need to clean up our red zone production on offense. We were bottom five in the league in touchdowns and points. We also need to clean up our penalties. Once we do that, we can take that next step.
The Spun: Which players did you try to model your game after?
DW: I got to Georgia Tech and I was like, ‘I don’t know what to do in order to play wide receiver.’ So I ended up watching a lot of Demaryius Thomas and Calvin Johnson.
The Spun: Who are the best trash talkers you’ve faced in the NFL?
DW: A very underrated one is Trey Hendrickson from the Bengals. He talks the entire game, but it’s funny and in good spirit. I’d say Tyrann Mathieu is up there. Philip Rivers belongs in that group as well. No one is really over the top with what they say though.
The Spun: What are your goals for this fall, both on and off the field?
DW: I try to keep my goals simple. Like I said for the rookies, I want to be process-driven. If you get caught up in results and stats, you’ll get frustrated and detached from the grind. I want to continue being a student of the game and taking care of my body. If I do that, things will work out how they’re supposed to. Off the field, I want to continue working with my foundation [The Darren Waller Foundation] and help serve people who are trying to recover or are currently suffering from addictions. I want to be a part of the solution for them. Those are things I’m really focused on right now.
Waller is primed for another big year in Las Vegas, especially with Davante Adams now on the roster. Defenses won’t be able to just focus solely on Waller.
If the Raiders can build off the success they had last fall, they’ll be contenders in the loaded AFC West.
You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.