The Oakland Raiders announced that tight end Darren Waller is the recipient of the 2019 Craig Long Award, which is handed out by the organization to the player who works well with the media each year.
To receive this award signifies the amazing turnaround that Waller has made in his career. Although he never squabbled with the media earlier in his career, his substance abuse history caused him a fair amount of misfortune.
Waller was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2015 but was only able to play in six games that season due to injury. He would go on to play 12 games in 2016 but missed the entire 2017 season after being suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Now Waller has turned his life around to become one of the premier tight ends in the NFL, recently being named a Pro-Bowl alternate. According to Raiders.com, he is the first Raider tight end to reach the 1,000 receiving-yard milestone since 1986. Waller’s 1,038 yards are the second-most receiving yards by a tight end in the NFL, with Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs leading the way.
Waller has consistently had the right answer to reporters each and every week, being willing to open up about his difficult past. He says a calm demeanor has helped him on the football field, but it seems that demeanor has also helped him create a relationship with the media as well.
Heading into Week 17, Waller is primed to be the runaway leader for the Raiders leader in receiving yards. He only has three receiving touchdowns, but his ability to move the chains and block for his teammates has been the real game-changer for this Oakland team.
The Raiders Week 17 matchup with the Denver Broncos will be of paramount importance. Should the Raiders win while also having the Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans lose, they would find themselves as the six-seed in the AFC postseason picture.
The Craig Long Award is named for the former member of the Raiders public relations staff who passed away in 2007. The award has been passed out annually since 2014, with Antonio Smith, Charles Woodson, Donald Penn, Jalen Richard and Frostee Rucker being the previous recipients.
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