When Dalton Risner picks up his pen Wednesday morning to sign his national letter of intent, it will represent much more than a simple signature.
So it’s only fitting that the Wiggins High School senior is performing that act in a place befitting the magnitude of the situation.
Risner and a number of other prep football players who are in Arlington, Texas for the week to prepare for the 2014 International Bowl will celebrate National Signing Day at AT&T Stadium – home of the Dallas Cowboys. Risner will sign with Kansas State University to play football for the Wildcats, and in doing so will be “living the dream.”
“It’s just going to simply be a dream come true. I always believed in myself,” Risner said by phone from Arlington. “There’s going to be a lot of emotions running through my head. It’s going to be like I finally made it.”
While signing the letter of intent may finalize things, the decision to go to Kansas State was made nearly a year ago. Risner, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound offensive lineman, was drawn to the Wildcats early on. From the small-town feel that Manhattan, Kan. offered, to an immediate bond with the coaching staff, Risner was hooked. His grandfather, Vince Risner, also attended KSU.
“He felt like it was where he was supposed to go,” said Risner’s father, Mitch, who coached him at Wiggins. “There’s a culture of a fan base there in Manhattan. Here in Wiggins, our sports are near and dear to the community’s hearts. Everyone is kind of all in, if you will.
“He felt like he got that same thing in Manhattan.”
Mitch Risner said when he watches Dalton sign his letter of intent Wednesday, he’ll also be flooded with emotions.
“I’d say that it’s humbling as a father and gratifying as his head coach,” he said. “Those are probably the two different feelings of where I’m at.”
Dalton Risner endured a challenging senior season after breaking his foot early in the 2013 campaign. The injury ended his football season and prevented him from playing basketball, though he expects to compete in track and field this spring.
While Risner admitted he had his fair share of ups and downs after the injury, he did his best to remain positive and credited the community of Wiggins for helping him get through the tough times.
He returned to the field Jan. 3 in the Offense-Defense Senior Bowl in Orlando, Fla., where he had an impressive showing. He’ll compete in the International Bowl for Team USA vs. Team Canada on Friday.
“Getting back on the field, I was nervous. Going to a bowl game like that I didn’t know really what to expect,” he said of playing in Orlando. “Coming from 1A football and going against 5A and 6A guys from Texas, I was really nervous, but I’ve always been confident in myself.
“I worked hard and it just went really well.”
The expectations are already high for Risner headed into Kansas State, where USAToday.com selected him as the gem of the program’s recruiting class. For now though, he just wants to enjoy the rest of his time in high school before beginning the next chapter of his life.
“I don’t want to rush it. I’m going to finish out with track and field and see if maybe I can break a few school records,” he said. “I’ll finish out hard and enjoy it with my friends, but once I graduate it’s all business.”
Mitch Risner said going from a small town to competing for a Big 12 program like K-State shows future players that they can accomplish anything. He’s even more proud of what Dalton has done off the field. Risner has a 3.95 GPA and is active in the community.
“You’ve got to make sure you positively impact the people around you,” Mitch said. “To be able to have that success in all aspects of life is more important to us than what he does on the field.”