Darren Waller College Stats: Despite Dancing With His Demons, the Georgia Tech WR Delivered for the Yellow Jackets

    Despite career-long battles with his own demons, Darren Waller put up underrated college stats for Georgia Tech before emerging as a Pro Bowl TE.

    Now on the edge of retirement, Darren Waller’s path to becoming one of the most feared tight ends in the NFL featured a three-pronged course of action, changing his position, team, and lifestyle.

    It wasn’t easy for the great-grandson of famous jazz musician Fats Waller. As he considers hanging up his cleats for the last time, let’s look back at Waller’s college stats coming out of Georgia Tech.

    Darren Waller Production Limited in Run-Heavy Offense

    Waller was a standout receiver and defensive back in the class of 2011 at North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia. He chose to play for Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech over offers from Auburn, South Carolina, Kentucky, Wake Forest, and Vanderbilt, among many others.

    A 6’6″, two-way player, Waller stuck to offense with the Yellow Jackets, appearing in all 12 games as a true freshman. He didn’t make any starts or tally any receptions, but his size was used on special teams as a kick and punt blocker.

    Waller broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore and made his first career reception against Middle Tennessee, ending the game with two catches for 13 yards. He followed that up with another two-catch performance the following week against Clemson, picking up 19 yards.

    He ended the 2012 season with eight catches for 162 yards, including a season-long 63-yard reception on his lone catch against North Carolina. Those stats seem pedestrian, but in Johnson’s legendary triple-option offensive scheme, which predominately relied on running the ball, they were enough to finish fifth on the team in receptions and yards that year.

    Waller’s College Stats in 2012

    Receptions: 8
    Receiving Yards: 162
    Receiving Yards Per Catch: 20.3
    Receiving Touchdowns: 0

    Waller Excels on the Field While Dealing With Substance Abuse Off It

    While Waller saw his production increase in football and the classroom (graduating a semester early his senior year), he privately dealt with an addiction to prescription opioids, which led to him abusing other illicit street drugs and alcohol.

    Waller has since admitted to failing and cheating on several drug tests while at Georgia Tech, leading to the school quietly forcing him into rehab.

    Even with those issues, Waller more than doubled his output during his junior year. He scored his first collegiate touchdown against North Carolina, finishing the game with two catches for 38 yards. He scored again four games later against Syracuse and one last time to end the season against Mississippi.

    Waller finished third on the Yellow Jackets with 17 catches for 367 yards and three scores.

    Waller’s College Stats in 2013

    Receptions: 17
    Receiving Yards: 367
    Receiving Yards Per Catch: 21.6
    Receiving Touchdowns: 3

    Waller’s abilities were fully realized during his senior year, putting up his best statistical season in 2014. He found the end zone six times that year in eight starts, doubling his career total up to that point.

    He scored against Georgia Southern, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida State, and Mississippi State. Waller finished second on the team with 26 catches for 442 yards and six scores. His lone 100-yard performance in college was his last, with 114 yards against Mississippi State.

    Waller’s College Stats in 2014

    Receptions: 26
    Receiving Yards: 442
    Receiving Yards Per Catch: 17.0
    Receiving Touchdowns: 6

    Waller’s Final College Stats

    Receptions: 51
    Receiving Yards: 971
    Receiving Yards Per Catch: 19.0
    Receiving Touchdowns: 9

    After graduating early, Waller was taken in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. His personal struggles followed him to the NFL, first leading to a four-game suspension in 2016 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and then for the entire 2017 season after more failed drug tests.

    Waller went to rehab at the behest of the league and was reinstated for the 2018 season.

    KEEP READING: 2025 College Football Hall of Fame Ballot Includes Nick Saban, Aaron Donald

    The Ravens moved Waller to their practice squad ahead of the season started before the Oakland Raiders signed him to their full roster that November. He had a breakout 2019 season with 90 catches for 1,145 yards and three TDs, before making the Pro Bowl in 2020 with 107 catches for 1,196 yards and nine scores.

    Due to a series of injuries, his production plummeted, and he was traded to the New York Giants for a third-round pick last year.

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