Where do I start? My name is Dalton Risner and I am a football player at Kansas State University. I was born in Springfield Missouri in 1995. I moved to Wiggins Colorado when I was five and lived there until I moved to Manhattan Kansas. Growing up I was always the big kid in the family, in school, and everywhere I went. I even remember hanging around a family friend of ours with the last name Mora, and they always thought it was so funny how they could stick their hand in my belly and have me make it disappear. I’m literally dying laughing as I write this just thinking about how and why we thought this was funny. Anyways, I was a big kid, and I loved sports. I have a big family, my parents Mitcheal and Melinda, and my four brothers Austin, Taylor, Kaeson, and Shelden mean everything to me. You can imagine our household growing up, the fights, the timeouts, the dirt clods in the eyes, the bruises, the broken bones, everything. We had a funny saying growing up, because every time something would turn up missing or broken, no one would know where it went or how it happened. My mom would always say the “ghost” was at it again.
The reason I believe I am who I am today is because of the town I was raised in, and the influential people in my life. My parents always expected so much out of me, and that always drove me to be better. Wiggins taught me to be humble, and the community in that town instilled loyalty and passion in my heart. Ever since I was a young kid throwing the football to myself I have dreamed of playing in the National Football League. I would put on the two-dollar plastic jaguars helmet and some old football pants and envision myself in the game, just hoping I could make it happen someday. I was the type of kid growing up that would look out the window for hours, just day dreaming of my future in football and who I was going to be. I would envision what I was going to look like, how good I was going to be, anything you can imagine, I dreamt it. Crazy enough, I don’t know why I loved football, it was just a love that I have always had since I can remember. It was always so funny when I day dreamed because I would snap out of it and come back to reality as the five-foot-tall two-hundred-pound elementary kid that had a dream. The point I’m trying to make is that I have always had a dream and playing in the NFL has been on my mind for twenty-two going on twenty-three years.
As a kid growing up my parents instilled hard work, discipline, respect, integrity, and determination in my heart. I was expected to have all As every year, and if I didn’t, there had to be a heck of an excuse. My parents were hard on me, in school and in sports. My dad was my coach from the day I joined football to the day I graduated high school. I wanted to be a running back in middle school, I was sick of being a lineman because it wasn’t cool. I wanted to score touchdowns, so I tried out, and within the first minute I was told I wasn’t a running back and was a lineman. I was so angry at my father that I went home and lined up football pads along our house and just ran into them for a solid thirty minutes. Maybe to prove a point, or make my dad hear me, I don’t know, but that’s just it. If I wanted something I always went after it with all my heart. Growing up in the small town of Wiggins sports became everything to me. Baseball, football, track, basketball, soccer, you name it. By the time I got to high school I just played football, basketball and track.
I’m from the type of town that on a Saturday night you and the boys hop in the truck, run through McDonalds, and then cruise main street trying to find some cute girls or just look cool compared to the other fellas. The higher the lift on your truck, the bigger your tires, and the brighter your neon lights were, all were factors of cool you were. In the summers I bucked hay bales for a farmer in town, picked rye out of wheat fields, and built barbwire fence. When I tell you for ten hours a day, we walked alongside a truck pulling a trailer, and threw hundred-pound bales on it while my other brother stacked them, and my younger brother got to drive the truck, I mean it. After we would load the whole trailer we would hop on and go unload the bales in the barn, then a quick sip of water from the well faucet, throw the leather gloves back on and get back to work. That’s what we did in Wiggins, and it made me who I am today. The value of hard work today is a lost art, and I’m so thankful for those grueling summer days for teaching me about what hard work really is.
I remember high school like it was yesterday. Everyone might think my journey was easy, but I can tell you, it wasn’t. When I tell you no school ever comes through Wiggins High school to see if there is talent for the college level, I mean it. When I decided playing college, football was a goal of mine, my parents were on board and signed me up for every football camp in Colorado and the surrounding states. Starting my 8th grade year I went to ten or so football camps a summer. Anywhere from Northern Arizona to Nebraska camp, I was there. My buddies were at the lake, and I was either working or at camp. I can still remember my sophomore summer when I was at Nebraska camp, I was smaller than most the guys, no one noticed me, and I wanted to be done. I called my dad and told him I was done, and he had a few things to say about that, as did my mom. They reminded me why I was doing it, and how it wasn’t going to be easy, but it would be worth it. It was so cool to because the next day, I cans still remember the coach’s name, Coach Garretson at Nebraska, called me out in front of everybody and said I was doing a good job and that he liked me. It felt so good to be noticed and it gave me hope that I could make this crazy dream of mine come true. At the same time, it was hard, I would have my friends telling me that I should stop setting my goals so high, and that no one from Wiggins goes on to do that. Don’t worry though, I never listened, I would just tell myself one day, one day they will see.
Towards the latter part of high school things started picking up with recruiting. I finally grew, and my belly could no longer eat people hands, I was around six feet four and two hundred eighty pounds my junior year. I was so discouraged at first, I hadn’t been offered by anybody, I had worked so hard and nothing was happening. Then my older brother Taylor’s school that he played football at (Northern Colorado) offered me a scholarship, I remember it bit for bit. It still makes me smile, getting told that I was a division one caliber athlete and that they wanted me to come play for them, almost brought me to tears. As soon as I got that offer, the others started rolling in. Soon came Wyoming, then Colorado State, and eventually Kansas State. The process was fun, I went on several trips with my parents to Junior days and unofficial visits to all these different schools. These schools actually wanted me to play for them, this small-town kid from Wiggins Colorado with a dream. They wanted me. It didn’t come easy though, the amount of emails I sent every weekend to every school in the nation is almost embarrassing. I didn’t care if they didn’t answer, the next weekend you can guarantee I sent another email updating them on my GPA and giving them more film of mine to watch.
A great memory of mine is when the offensive line coach for Oregon at the time gave me a call, I was about to go warm up for a basketball game when I got the call. He said you know I had no intention of calling you back, but when I got the 50th email in a row from you I had to admire your persistence. It made me so happy, I even wished for an Oregon hat for Christmas and everything, come to find out they never offered me and only invited me to camp, but it was still a cool experience. Funny enough, I watched them play in their bowl game that year, they were playing some purple team in the Fiesta bowl called the wildcats, I had never heard of them and wasn’t interested. Come to find out, I’m playing for the Cats five years down the road, isn’t it crazy how that works? I went from a kid with a far-fetched dream looking out the window of mom and dad’s car, to literally living that dream I had always wanted. The hard work, the camps, the emails, the phone calls, the sacrifices, had all paid off.
The town of Wiggins supported me and continues to support me in an unbelievable way, but like every town has, plenty of friends and parents didn’t believe in me. I would hear things like I only got scholarship offers because I was big and tall, and that I would never play at the next level. It was hard to hear, because I knew how much I sacrificed and how hard I worked, but I knew I would prove myself someday. Before I knew it, over the intercom at my high school my principle was announcing, “Dalton Stanford is here to see you”. Division One Schools were coming down to Wiggins Colorado to see me, down the dirt roads, though the patchy cell service zones, with their National Championship rings on and all. However, at the end of the process, I eventually signed with Kansas State and began my next journey in college.
When I stepped foot on campus here in Manhattan Kansas I had no idea what I was getting into. I was the Dalton Risner, six feet five three hundred pounds, big and strong, I couldn’t be beaten. Coming from a small town like Wiggins and playing 1A football, I was used to being the biggest, strongest, and being the big name everywhere I went. Oh boy was I wrong. My very first summer workout at Kansas state I died, and the strength coaches ate me alive. I knew nobody, mom and dad weren’t there to take care of me, I had meetings to go to, bills to pay, school work to do, and had a full body cramp that every time I moved would cramp up in a new spot. Everybody, when I tell you that you should have seen me that day, boy was it bad. I’m talking I was sweating profusely and crying so much at the same time I didn’t even know which was which. To say the least, the first few weeks were awful, so bad that I wanted to be done. I gave it a shot, but everyone was right, I wasn’t good enough, I should have just stayed in Wiggins, it was too hard. My dad and mom had come up for a football camp for my younger brother Kaeson, and I told them I was done. Talk about a three-hour conversation.
Here I was again, three years down the road from Nebraska camp, at another fork in the road, at the Fairfield Inn Marriott’s parking lot in Manhattan Kansas. My parents yet again reminded me of how hard I had worked, the time I sacrificed for my dream, and how many people I would prove right by quitting. They assured me that life wasn’t easy, and that if I quit it would define me for a long time. I’m so thankful for my parents, because they kept my dream alive. The rest of that summer was brutal, I lost a lot of weight, and learned what true hard work was. I began the journey of a lifetime. I started making friends, moved in with my three best friends at Kansas State till this day, Zach Reuter, Winston Dimel, and Kendall Adams. From there my career took off. I ended up earning the starting job at center my redshirt freshman year, then have been playing right tackle ever since. I was blessed enough to receive All-American honors as a freshman, All Big 12 First team honors as a sophomore and junior, as well as 1st and 2nd team All-American nods for my junior year. I have been team captain the last two years and plan on being captain this upcoming year for the third year in a row. My career at Kansas State was hard, and nothing came easy, there was plenty of blood seat and tears involved in getting to where I am today. The teammates or may I say brothers that I’ve met here have been instrumental in my success on and off the field. I’m currently going on my fifth and final year this upcoming fall. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications this past December.
The thing is, I could sit here and write for days sharing stories with you all and telling you about myself and my journey, but this is all you need to know. I come from a town and a family where playing division one football is a huge feat, and something we don’t take for granted. I count my blessings each and every day for the gifts god has given me. I’m just a kid with a dream, but not just any kid, I have believed in myself every step of the way, never letting one obstacle or the other throw me off track. The way I was raised, shaped me into the football player and man I have become. Whether it was the weeds my dad had me pull as a kid just so I could watch them grow back, or the pride I took in my schoolwork, or even the times of feeling like I couldn’t do it, they shaped me into who I am. I believe that above everything else in life, the way we treat people is the most important. The greatest gift we were given was the ability to smile. I never underestimate the power of a simple hello, hug, or smile to anyone I meet. I believe in Jesus Christ with all my heart and owe every ounce of my life to him. My goal is to utilize the platform god has given me with football to spread happiness and the word of god to everyone I meet. Here I am now, 8 months away from having a shot at the NFL. You guys remember that kid throwing on the jaguar’s helmet and running around the yard pretending, because I do, and I’m going to make him proud. The last thing I want to leave you all with is this. We all have dreams, we all have our own unique traits and blessings, our own callings in life, but we all don’t find them, I encourage you all to find out exactly why your down here on Earth, and once you do, run with it.