For some high school athletes, attention from colleges doesn't take too much outside work. Playing for a state championship with a well-known program or hailing from a highly recruited state can make the process easier. But for some players, fighting for college interest is imperative for recruitment.
Dalton Risner falls into the second category.
The 6-foot-4.75, 285-pound offensive lineman out of Wiggins (Col.) Jr- Sr High knew at the beginning of his high school football career that he wanted to play Division-I football. He also acknowledged that he'd have to put in more time and effort to get noticed by big time programs.
"My dad played college football, but it was really during my freshman season, going out onto the field and playing with the team, that I knew I wanted to play college sports and make a name for myself. Coming from a small 1-A school in Colorado, I wanted to prove to a lot of colleges and people that we small town kids can play football. It's always been a passion for me," he said.
Instead of using his home state as an excuse, Risner channelled his energy into his performance on the field.
"At the beginning of the process, I sent out emails to a lot of Division-1 programs and it just drove me. I feel that Colorado has a lot of good recruits, we just don't always get recruited. We're trying to get a name out there for us. I use it as a chip on my shoulder; it makes me work that much harder. I wanted to help show that Colorado kids can play Division-1 football. It drove me to work harder for my scholarship offers to prove that I can," he said.
And prove it, Risner did.
The athlete experienced what many would call a "break out" season in 2012, compiling an impressive highlight reel along the way. After the season, Risner sent out his film to a number of programs and received the response for which he had been hoping.
"They kind of wondered where I came from," he said. "I got an offer from the University of Northern Colorado and the end of the season; my brother [quarterback Taylor Risner] plays there, so I already had ties with them. After that, I took some visits and offers started rolling. I went to at least ten schools and picked up offers like Kansas State, Missouri, Tulsa, Wyoming, New Mexico State, and Arizona State," he said.
It was on a visit to Manhattan that Risner found himself intrigued with the Wildcat's program, specifically when he realized picking up an offer would be no easy feat.
"I visited a lot of schools in difference conferences, like the SEC and Pac-12, and everyone treated me great. They rolled out the red carpet. But it really is an honor to get offered by Kansas State. They don't just throw out offers. They wouldn't offer me until I had visited; it was a long process through the recruiting coordinator to the position coach to the offensive coordinators until you get to hear from the head coach," he said.
When the offer finally arrived, Risner was ecstatic.
"Kansas State has always been a dream school for me. I've always loved Coach Bill Snyder and Collin Klein is from Colorado, too. The main thing is that when I got there, the family atmosphere there was unreal. Sometimes you feel like like schools are trying to get you to buy a product, kind of like a car salesman, but at Kansas State, it was all about family, all about working hard. As soon as I committed, I had fans tweeting me and messaging me and welcoming me to the family," he said.
Throughout the process, Risner has had the opportunity to get to know a few members of the staff, specifically recruiting coordinator Taylor Braet and his future position coach, Charlie Dickey, with whom he's spoken about plans for incorporating Risner into the Cats' offense.
"The offensive line coach, Coach Dickey, and I get along great. I sat down with him and we talked about how he plans to use me. Right now, Kansas State has a lot of senior offensive linemen. He only has ten or eleven guys on scholarship, so he needs about five guys in this class. He needs guys to come in and play young. He's not about a 6-foot-8 guy with a five -star rating; he wants guys who will come in and work hard.
"He wants to incorporate me onto the line at either tackle, guard, or center. Another reason why I liked them is because their line fits me perfectly. I'm not one of those big guys who moves slow but is really strong. I'm a taller, leaner player who likes to move; I pull a lot. They like linemen who can move. He wants guys to come in and play early, and I feel like I'm a guy who could come in and play anywhere on the line. I just have to keep driving myself, never get complacent. I don't expect anything less from myself; my goal is to go in and play pretty early," he said.
Recently, Risner had the chance to spend a few days on campus and take in the Wildcats' spring game, which gave him an even closer look at both the team and the fan base.
"There were about 20,000 people there; the whole thing was an unbelievable experience. They have a great fan base and I love what they are all about. That's why I chose Kansas State over other schools. People were introducing me to their kids. You really could notice the positive attitude there going into the game, everyone talking about how they are Big 12 champs," he said.
The game also presented Risner with the opportunity to spend some time with his future teammates.
"There were ten other commits, some big recruits like Dalvin Warmack and Elijah Lee. They are bringing in some great guys; it definitely felt like it's own experience, the whole town was into it and everyone really believes in the program. You see it in the way the kids on the team were holding their heads. They act like they are a great football team because they are," he said.
Though he has no more trips to campus scheduled, Risner does hope to visit a few more times over the summer, among a packed few months consisting of workouts with former Colorado and NFL guard Matt McChesney, offensive line technique drills, cross fit, and events for track and field (he's top ten in the state for both shotput and discus).
He's also continuing to receive interest from other programs, picking up offers from both Colorado and California on Wednesday.
Ultimately, even with his commitment behind him, Risner refuses to get complacent, working toward his goal of one day playing in the NFL.
"Three offensive tackles went in the first round in this year's draft. It's great to see that it starts up front; that teams see they can't do anything unless you are strong up front. Linemen aren't always the ones getting noticed, so it was really awesome to see those guys go so high.
"That's my goal some day; not just to go to Kansas State, but go pro if I can. It really gave me motivation to see that," he said.
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