SE: Risner Rising to Leadership Role Early

Dalton Risner’s first year on the field for Kansas State was only his second year in the program. He caught on quickly, starting all 13 games at center as a redshirt freshman.

The Wiggins, Colorado, native did more than just hold his own too. His play earned him a First Team Freshman All-America honor from Campus Insiders and second-team nods from Athlon and Scout.  

Risner enters his sophomore season with plenty of work to do. With the other four starters from last year’s offensive line having graduated, he will be counted on for leadership and consistency. 

It is a challenge Risner, a team captain and one of 62 centers across the country on the Rimington Trophy watch list, is ready to face.

K-State Sports Extra had a chance to visit with Risner during Big 12 Media Day in Dallas last month.

Sports Extra: What does it mean to be voted a team captain entering your sophomore year? 

DR: I think it really is rare, and I was extremely excited about it because I have a lot of juniors and seniors above me that had to have voted for me to be captain. It’s a really big opportunity for me to lead a team like this at such a young age. I was extremely excited, and it’s a big weight on my back as well that I got to own up to.

SE: Considering you’re the only returning starter on the offensive line, do you feel like a veteran? 

DR: I definitely don’t feel like I’ve been here for five years, like a Dante (Barnett), but I feel like I’m one of the more established guys on the team that’s been here, that’s played out there, that knows what the system’s like. I have a lot of guys coming to me, asking questions, and I love that. I’m more than up for the challenge. I’m very excited about it. It’s been great.

SE: How did starting all 13 games last season jumpstart your maturity as a football player? 

DR: I went from being a redshirt to having four guys on the offensive line that needed someone to step up and fill B.J. Finney’s shoes. That was a huge job for me. It made me go from being a redshirt to being a guy that needs to be relied on. It was one of the hardest years of my life, but also one of the greatest years. This year, it’s not going to be any easier. I got to get four guys to come up and refill all the spots we lost last year and do the exact same thing I did last year. It’s going to be hard, but I’m more than ready for it and we’re doing a really good job right now. 

SE: What did you learn from last year’s seniors on the offensive line?

DR: Being able to watch guys like Cody Whitehair, who’s now with the Chicago Bears, and Boston Stiverson, who’s out there with the Dallas Cowboys, is a dream come true. Learning from them — how they carry themselves on the field, how they carry themselves in practice — it pays off a lot. So I’m trying to do the same things for the guys on the offensive line this year, and I can only hope that I’m a good enough leader for them and we can get the o-line ready to go for Stanford (on Sept. 2).

SE: What has been your focus over the summer?

DR: My biggest focus has been to get my offensive line tough, ready and expecting of what’s going to be going on at camp, and to really focus on the workouts because some people don’t think that the workouts really correlate to football, but if you can finish one of these workouts, it tells a lot about your toughness. I think that’s what we need on the offensive line, and not only taking care of everyone else but I’m making sure I keep doing what I need to do, making sure I finish the workouts, make sure I’m leading by example and being a good leader as well.

SE: What was your reaction to being named to the Rimington Trophy watch list? 

DR: I was so happy about it. It is a dream come true to even be on that list. I can only hope someday that I can be on the finalist list. It’s a great thing that I’m excited about and hopefully I can live up to it. Hopefully, by my senior year I can be on the finalist list.

SE: Your younger brother, Kaeson Risner, joined K-State as a walk-on from your hometown of Wiggins, Colorado. How has that reunion been? 

DR: I love hearing that anyone else from Wiggins is on the team. He’s a great athlete, and it’s been awesome. It’s hard to balance being that mean, older brother to being that encouraging captain at the same time. I’m trying to find a happy medium on how to treat him, but I’m so glad that he’s up here. It’s going to be great. 

SE: What have you enjoyed most about your time at K-State so far? 

DR: You make a lot of connections up here. One thing I always tell people is the football program is great — we win games, we work hard — but Coach (Bill) Snyder and what he does really prepares you for life after football as well. I think that’s been awesome watching myself grow and seeing where I started out two years ago and where I’m at now. I’m excited to see where I’m at three years from now and the standpoint that I’m in. That’s all given to Coach Snyder for what he’s done.”

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