SE: Risner Takes Pride in Community Service, Earns Recognitions for Work Off the Field

Growing up in Wiggins, Colorado, a town of around 900 people, Dalton Risner came to appreciate the significance of community and the power its support can bring. He also learned the importance of giving back, a lesson he’s expanded upon since he arriving at K-State in 2014.  

Now, after two years of starting on the offensive line and earning First Team All-Big 12 honors as a redshirt sophomore, Risner is beginning to be recognized for more than his standout play on the field. 

Risner, a team captain, was named a nominee for the AFCA Good Works Team and the Wuerffel Trophy watch list, both prestigious college football awards for community service. 

“It’s honestly incredible. I’d like an award like that more than I would an Outland Trophy,” said Risner, who is also on the watch list for the Outland Trophy — presented to the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman in the country. Other than Risner, only five other football players across the country were placed on all three of these preseason lists. “I love the football awards but, at the same time, if it has something to do with community service and giving back to other people, I think that’s my calling in life. That’s something I take a lot of pride in and that’s what makes me happy.” 

Risner traces his passion for community service back to his hometown, which doesn’t produce an abundance of Division I football players but he credits in helping him reach K-State. 

“Coming from a small town like Wiggins, I’ve learned how awesome it is to have a community behind you,” he said. “I think it’s really important to be able to give back to others and let them know that, ‘Hey, you can do it too.’ It’s really awesome to give back to communities that support you and that get you to where you want to go. It’s something that I take a lot of pride in and I think it’s probably because of how I was raised and where I was raised.”

Coming to K-State has only amplified Risner’s ability to pursue his passion in community service. 

His K-State Athletics-led activities include: Cats in the Classroom (volunteer at local elementary schools); Special Olympics; Tipoff for TP (Collection of goods for the Manhattan Emergency Shelter); Cats 4 Cans (Collection of food items for the Flint Hills Breadbasket); Adopt-a-Family (Provide gifts to families in need over holiday season); Senior Cats (Spending time at local retirement home); and Future Cats (Working with small children). 

This high level of involvement is impressive but far from unheard of at K-State. Risner marks the ninth inclusion for the AFCA Good Works preseason list in the last 10 years. 

“Coach (Bill) Snyder emphasizes that. He influences us and helps us remember that giving back is the most important thing,” Risner said. “Being on a team like Kansas State helps you remember why you’re truly here. It helps you remember how you got there. 

“The way I was raised and being on a team like Kansas State, that’s probably part of the reason why I value giving back in community service so much.”

Risner goes beyond what K-State Athletics organizes for community service as well. On his own, he has attended Camp Hope each year to work with children who are battling cancer. This summer, he also went and spoke at a church in Gardner, where he was able to share his story of football and faith. 

Even more, Risner does additional work with the Special Olympics, bonding with one Special Olympian in particular. The two attend movies, go bowling or just hang out about once a week. 

“He’s impacted me a lot, with his positivity and his outlook on life,” Risner said. “He really inspires me.”

Through his off-the-field work, Risner hopes to inspire others. While he feels honored to be recognized for his community service, nothing can match the actual rewards of giving back.  

“The main thing that I get out of it is the feeling of making others happy. It’s the feeling of giving back to someone and making them happy, giving back to a community and letting them know that I appreciate them,” he said. “To let someone know that I appreciate them and make them happy and to see a smile on their face, that’s all that matters to me. I just want people to know that I appreciate what they do and I want to have an impact on people.”

With each community service project and connection he makes, Risner said his outlook on life and football are positively altered. 

“It shapes your perspective a ton,” said the Wildcats’ right tackle, named to the media’s Preseason All-Big 12 Team. “It helps me remember where I’m from. It gives you more of a positive, more of a humble outlook on life and a reminder of why you’re here. It helps you appreciate, really, the little things in life.”

K-State embarks on the 2017 campaign and opens a seven-game home schedule on Saturday, September 2, against Central Arkansas, a game that serves as the ninth-annual K-State Family Reunion. As K-State draws nearer to running its consecutive sellout streak to 40 games, tickets can be purchased through the K-State Athletics Ticket office online at www.k-statesports.com/tickets, by phone at 1-800-221-CATS or at the main ticket office inside Bramlage Coliseum.