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Giants’ TE Darren Waller on tattoos, teammates, more

Waller gives us a glimpse of a different side of himself, and some of his teammates

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants
Darren Waller
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

New York Giants tight end Darren Waller is an interesting man, a football player with an inspiring story of overcoming opioid addiction and interests that go beyond the game.

I had an opportunity to speak 1-on-1 with Waller via phone on Tuesday after Waller conducted a boxing workout class at WTF Boxing Gym in New York City. We did something different. Rather than focus on his hamstring and the Giants’ 40-0 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, we chatted about some other topics. Mostly his tattoos and his new teammates.

Hopefully, you enjoy this different conversation with Waller.

What is the tattoo on your neck about?

“Which one? Which side? I got my neck surrounded and I got my head surrounded at this point.”

What is your favorite tattoo?

“Oh, man, that’s tough, bro. I’ve got a lot of good ones. Favorite one? My mind always goes, well, I have my great-grandfather on my left leg. That’s definitely one of my favorite ones. On my left side there’s an hourglass, and it’s made out of tree roots on the outside. And so basically the theme of it, you know how the sand of an hourglass goes down to the bottom and it’s like the top of the hourglass are roots of a tree growing down, and then at the bottom of the hourglass, it’s like the tree rising up out of the ground. So it’s basically like, it takes time and basically a tree has to grow underground first. There’s gonna be things that people can’t see necessarily about your growth, about any type of change that you’re going through.

“But those roots have to take place before anything can be seen above ground, which I can equate to my career and my life. My story, a lot of things have changed behind the scenes. Just me being in therapy, me going to rehab, me doing all these things. And even coming back into my career of just doing a lot of dirty work, doing a lot of grind where nobody was seeing it. And then over time as my character changed that’s when people were able to start to see a different side of me.”

Give me one more tattoo with a story?

“So on my stomach I have, there’s these things in Japan, they’re called torii gates. And as you walk in Japanese culture, like walking through them, it’s like you’re walking into a sacred space, like a peaceful place. Japanese culture is pretty fascinating to me in a lot of ways. But the gates are like, it’s like treating myself as a sacred space. Not allowing certain people or certain ideas to necessarily penetrate mine or just because some people are doing certain things doesn’t mean I’m gonna be doing it. I consider my life sacred now that I’ve been given new license.”

Which teammate has the best tattoos?

“Who’s got the best tattoos? I like Haddy’s [Jihad Ward’s]. I think Haddy has some really dope work. I like Cage [Lawrence Cager]. Cage has go some really dope work. His leg sleeves especially. You’ve gotta put mine in that category ...there’s quite a few guys on the team with some dope tattoos.”

Which teammate desperately needs a tattoo?

“Man, Daniel Jones needs a tat, man. Daniel Jones needs his neck tatted. Daniel Jones needs his hands tatted. Daniel Jones needs his whole body tatted for real.”

What would you put on there?

“What would I put on DJ? I don’t know, man. Maybe begin with a Duke Blue Devil ‘D’ on an arm, maybe. Maybe put the New York City skyline on his shoulder blades. You know what I’m saying? Quarterback’s not easy, not an easy deal, you know what I’m saying? So, we start with a couple of those.”

Which teammate you knew nothing about when you became a Giant has really impressed you?

“Through camp, through the offseason, I’ve been impressed with Jason Pinnock. I get to compete against him on a day-in basis, day-out basis. And he’s made a lot of good plays in training camp. He’s got a really versatile game. He can cover, he can, come in there and be physical. I was really impressed with him. I heard people talk about he was with the Jets before and how he came to the Giants and I just think he has the ability to be a really good player and I get to see him kind of up close. I didn’t know anything of him until I got to the team, but he kind of jumped out to me.”

Who’s the funniest teammate?

“Funniest guy in the room is Haddy for sure. He’s, I mean, he is just so unapologetically himself. It kind of reminds me of like Marshawn Lynch. He just does not care whatsoever what you think of him. It’s honestly. Constant just dying laughing anytime he’s around.”

Quietest teammate?

“Maybe the quietest guy probably a little bit more reserved, I’ll say D.J. Davidson, defensive lineman. He’s a little more quiet. I mean, he’ll definitely have a conversation with you, but a lot of times he is just kind of about his business and then he gets on the field and he gets in the trenches and you see his intensity come out. It’s pretty cool. But yeah, DJ’s a pretty reserved guy.”

Which teammate could have a post-football TV career?

“I could see Kayvon [Thibodeaux] doing it. I think Sterling Shepard has a TV personality for sure. I could easily see DJ [Daniel Jones] be on CBS up there with a suit on breaking down the game.”

Daniel Jones?

“That’s what I’m saying. It’s like these guys have personalities that you guys may not necessarily get to see all that much, but yeah, man, the dude’s got, he’s got a sense of humor. He’s funny. He’s personable, man. I feel like that environment would allow him to, I could see him doing well. He’s one of the first people that popped to mind for me.”

Why are you working with Icy Hot ...

“I’ve been a partner with Icy Hot for the last couple years. And it’s something that has really been a part of my routine as far as the small pains that come with playing football on a daily basis, taking helmets to the thigh and just crashing up against other bodies. I tell people, it’s like being in weekly, regularly, regular car accidents. So, you need something to help with the pain.

“I can’t take painkillers anymore. It’s just not part of my routine any longer. Icy Hot has stepped in, has been something that has helped me tremendously and I want to get that message out to everybody, ‘cause people in every walk of life, they’re doing CrossFit, doing whatever they wanna do. And we don’t want them to be held back by pain from doing what they love.”