Raiders standout Darren Waller graced the end zone with his presence Thursday against the Chargers, lunging for a sprawling, 35-yard touchdown catch on a pass from Marcus Mariota (who replaced injured starter Derek Carr). For Waller, that’s been a frequent occurrence this year with Thursday marking the Pro Bowl tight end’s career-high eighth touchdown of 2020.
But this one obviously meant more to Waller, who was still hurting from the loss of his friend and former Ravens teammate Lorenzo Taliaferro, who passed away from a heart attack at age 28 earlier this week. Waller, who spent his 2015 and 2016 campaigns playing alongside Taliaferro in Baltimore, posted a heartfelt message to his Instagram page after Taliaferro’s passing was announced Wednesday, recalling their deep conversations about the “pain and loneliness we were experiencing.” Waller, of course, nearly lost his career to substance abuse issues with his low point coming when he served a year-long suspension in 2017.
After his touchdown, Waller honored his late teammate by signaling “34,” the number worn by Taliaferro throughout his three-year NFL career. Casual observers may not have caught it, but Justin Forsett, who was also a teammate of Taliaferro’s in Baltimore, immediately recognized Waller’s tribute to the former running back.
A fourth-round pick of the Ravens in 2014, Taliaferro appeared in 19 NFL games (all with Baltimore), totaling 82 rushes for 339 yards and five touchdowns along with 16 receptions for an additional 153 yards. The Virginia native and Coastal Carolina alum last played for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in 2019. He would have turned 29 next Wednesday, two days before Christmas.