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Ex-Georgia Tech receiver Darren Waller a finalist for Halas Award

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 08: Darren Waller #83 of the Oakland Raiders reacts after catching a pass and taking it to the two-yard line against the Tennessee Titans during the first half of an NFL football game at RingCentral Coliseum on December 08, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 08: Darren Waller #83 of the Oakland Raiders reacts after catching a pass and taking it to the two-yard line against the Tennessee Titans during the first half of an NFL football game at RingCentral Coliseum on December 08, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Credit: 2019 Getty Images

Credit: 2019 Getty Images

Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller, who played at North Cobb High and Georgia Tech, was named a finalist for the George Halas Award by the Pro Football Writers of America on Tuesday.

The Halas award is given to an NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed.

Waller once had such a strong addiction to drugs that he said he wouldn’t have been surprised if he failed 100 NFL drug tests. Twice suspended for violations of the league substance-abuse policy, Waller emerged from rehab as a new man.

> MORE:  Ex-Georgia Tech receiver Darren Waller is feel-good story of 2019 NFL season

The Raiders signed him from the Ravens’ practice squad in 2018, and he had a breakout season in 2019, with 90 catches for 1,145 receiving yards. Thumb surgery kept him from being named to the Pro Bowl as a replacement for Travis Kelce.

Other finalists for the Halas Award include Ravens tight end coach Bobby Engram, Cowboys center Travis Frederick, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen and former Chargers tackle Russell Okung, who was traded to Carolina.

Engram, Baltimore — Engram's daughter, Bobbi, died at the age of 20 in 2018 from complications of sickle cell disease. Despite his grief, Engram has guided the Ravens tight ends to excellent production. A wide receiver in the league for 14 years, Engram helped institute the Bobbi Engram Foundation, which funds sickle cell research.

Frederick, Dallas (retired) — After he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system, Frederick sat out the 2018 season. He came back in 2019 and was selected to his fifth Pro Bowl. Frederick said playing was a struggle, leading to his retirement in March 2020 at the age of 29.

Griffen, Minnesota — Griffen came back strong in 2019 with an eight-sack season following a difficult period. A 2018 police report said Griffen was acting erratically, and he subsequently underwent a mental health evaluation. His behavior was attributed to emotional distress stemming from a lifetime of painful experiences. Griffen lived in a sober house for three months and missed five games during the 2018 season.

Okung, LA Chargers — Last June, Okung suffered a pulmonary embolism because of a blood clot in his left leg and lungs that forced him to "look death right in the face." Given what he calls a second chance in life, Okung returned to the field in late October.

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