Darren Waller 1-on-1: OBJ, Giants-Cowboys and more

Giants tight end Darren Waller stopped by the Daily News on the ‘Talkin’ Ball with Pat Leonard’ podcast to discuss the Giants-Cowboys season opener, Odell Beckham Jr.’s famous catch, Waller’s aspirations to shine in the Big Apple, why everyone should believe in Daniel Jones and much more.

Here are nine questions and answers with Waller, whose appearance was sponsored by Invisalign:

DAILY NEWS: Where was Waller when Odell Beckham Jr., his former favorite Giant, made his famous one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football in 2014? And what impact did it have on him?

DARREN WALLER: “I think by then I was a senior in college, but just seeing his whole journey and then have it peak in a moment like that … I play football, so there’s not a lot of things on the field where I look at something and I’m like, ‘Yo, I can’t do that.’ So you see something like that and you’re like, ‘Alright, he got it. He’s like that. There’s no way I could do that, even if I tried a million times. I’m not making that kind of catch.’ Seeing that, I don’t know, it’s like man, you want to make plays that not only get your team hype but get the whole stadium hype or have people like, ‘Yo, this dude can’t be stopped.’ That kind of feeling is something he created for himself and something that everybody [who] is a playmaker wants to feel.”

DN: Is there something different about making that kind of play in New York?

DW: “Yeah, everything’s bigger here. I mean you look at the skyline, the skyline’s bigger. It looks like three cities as opposed to a normal city just being one. You see there’s a lot more reporters at practice than there are on other teams. There’s a lot more to it. People talk about it and then you get here — and I haven’t even been in MetLife Stadium for a big game yet — and I can already tell and I’ll be able to tell more on Sunday that New York is the media capital of the world, not just the U.S. To be able to play here is a privilege, man.”

DN: Has Waller envisioned himself on that grand stage and manifested what it will be like to face the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football?

DW: “Yeah, that’s something that’s a part of my routine during the week: When certain plays, certain schemes are installed, running them through in your mind against, ‘OK, if you get this coverage, what does my route look like? If it’s this coverage, what adjustment am I making?’ And seeing those things in my head before you even touch the field, so by the time you get to the field, you’re allowing your body to react and move naturally as opposed to that whole paralysis by analysis approach. So visualization is a big deal.”

DN: Giants TE coach Andy Bischoff told the News that Waller appreciates how Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka listen to his ideas for tweaks in play calls or the offense. How rare and refreshing is that kind of transparency?

DW: “I feel like there’s not a lot of places that happens. And the fact that it doesn’t happen in certain places isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because I’ve been in places, like playing for Jon Gruden [with the Raiders], I did whatever was on the paper and it worked out fine. But it is really cool. It gives the players another level of ownership in that kind of stuff. Because it’s not like everything that’s coming down the pipe I’m like, ‘Nah, change this, change this.’ It’s just maybe like, ‘Man, oh wow, what if we did this?’ It’s something that came to my brain randomly. And they’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll see. We’ll check it out.’ And it may be in one day, it may not be in. But it’s cool to be able to feel like they actually care [about] what we have to say, because they respect our level of knowledge when it comes to ball and likewise with them. So it’s been dope.”

DN: What did Gruden, Waller and the Raiders do to unlock his ability in 2019-20 when Waller went off for 197 catches, 2,341 yards and 12 TDs in a two-year span?

DW: “I would say it was just lining up at a bunch of different spots and being able to run a multitude of routes. One of my favorite players I’ve always liked watching is Julio Jones. And he’s a monster out there, but one thing I started to notice was he lines up everywhere you could possibly line up. He lines up out wide by himself. He lines up in the slot. He’ll line up in the number three spot a little bit flexed out like a tight end normally would be. It’s just all these different ways for him to be able to have these different matchups and different opportunities to get the ball. Because if you just line up in one spot and do a couple things, defenses are gonna kind of figure that out. So I feel like Coach Gruden was one of the people that first challenged me to do a whole bunch of different things in my game, and I actually learned a lot about myself like, ‘I can do all these things and I shouldn’t limit myself in any way,’ because it turned into a lot of production.”

DN: Waller’s leadership has stuck out in camp, from speeches to the offense to impressive blocking to mentoring young players like Lawrence Cager. When did Waller, now a captain, decide he was going to step forward into that role despite being a new Giant?

DW: “I feel like once I realized and kinda saw I’m one of the older guys here now — it was the first time I’ve ever really felt that — and I was like, OK, if I’m one of the older guys, whether I’m exceeding at the highest level or not, guys are gonna be like, ‘OK, how has this guy made it this long here? How is he still playing and performing? They look at your routine. They look at your energy level. They look at how you react when things aren’t going your way and you may have a bad play or a bad stretch sometimes. They’re watching those things. So it’s trying to be conscious of my actions and being intentional with what I do, because I never know who could be watching and who could be trying to take something from what I do. So I just try to make that show up as much as possible.”

DN: What is the top reason that someone should believe in Daniel Jones?

DW: “You just look at the way the guy plays the position. He’s throwing darts. And in today’s game, you look at what you want from a quarterback, you want the guy that can throw and run, and Daniel’s not just a good athlete; I feel like he’s a great athlete. He’s strong. He’s fast. So he can do both of those things. And he’s also a guy — football tempts you to ride an emotional rollercoaster a lot of times. And he’s a guy that just refuses to get on that, and he brings that calming presence to the huddle to where it’s like, ‘Alright, whatever’s happened before this, good or bad, we’re locked in on what exactly we’ve got to do right now.’ And I feel like the combination of those things, plus many more, makes him a guy that deserves the pressure, the expectations, all that. Because he’s that kind of guy.”

DN: Why did you choose Invisalign to get your dream smile (350+ NFL players across all 32 teams have received the treatment)?

DW: “Invisalign was a really organic partnership for me. Seeing a lot of guys in the league be able to benefit from the treatment, seeing them cleaning their liners and having their routine with it. And I was someone, I had a little bit of space in between my teeth and I wanted to start getting it tightened because I know my face is probably gonna be [in] a lot of places and why not take advantage of that opportunity. And they’ve been able to help work with me, and my routine is usually hectic no matter what time of the year it is. So whether it’s online, virtual appointments or going to the dentist’s office, they always make sure I have everything I need. So I’m seeing the results, and I want to help millions of other people see the results, too.”

DN: What was it like recording the six-song ‘Crowd Control’ EP in a collaboration with the NFL, Interscope Geffen A&M Records and EA SPORTS, which produces the Madden video game? The update is available for Madden 24. It’s the first time the game has featured original songs recorded by NFL players.

DW: “It was cool. I don’t even think that was really in the plans, because Interscope had a career day type of thing. The NFL does [a] good [job] having externships and stuff like that, and they had one with Interscope. You could go and see what type of music career you want to be involved in after you’re done playing. And they had a studio portion at the end where they opened up the studio — I think they just wanted to allow guys to see it and see how dope it was. But some of us went in there and we were, ‘OK, since we’re here.’ We’re plugging, playing beats and getting in the booth. And from there they were like, ‘Wow, these guys really care about music and really want to make dope music.’ So they gave us an opportunity through their relationships with EA SPORTS to be able to make that come about. And it was just cool to be there from the origins of it, the day it became an idea.”

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