Kansas State University

Why star blocker Dalton Risner returned to Kansas State instead of turning pro

Dalton Risner(August 3, 2017)
Dalton Risner(August 3, 2017)

The last year has been filled with decisions for Kansas State right tackle Dalton Risner.

Should he turn pro? Should he stay in college? When should he undergo surgery on his injured left shoulder? What should he do about his injured right shoulder? Should he play in the Cactus Bowl?

Risner, a senior captain and one of the top returning offensive linemen in the Big 12, pondered all those questions and more last season before ultimately deciding to fix his left shoulder with surgery, skip K-State's bowl game and return for his final year of college.

He remains unable to participate in spring practice, but he will be ready for the start of summer workouts and preseason camp.

"I'm healthy now," Risner said, "and in a month I will be ready to rock and roll."

This is what Risner had in mind when he made all those decisions following the conclusion of the 2017 season.

As a three-year starter and an all-Big 12 performer, he could have declared for the 2018 NFL Draft and emerged as a probable selection. The opportunity to take his talents to the next level appealed to him, and he looked into forgoing his senior year of college along with former teammates Byron Pringle and D.J. Reed. Yet, the more he considered his options the more he realized he wanted to stay with the Wildcats, especially while he nursed a pair of injured shoulders.

"The fact I could stay another year, get healthy and continue my legacy here at Kansas state, not only on the football field but as a captain and off the field with some stuff I am doing," Risner said. "It was like wow, that is a great opportunity. Why waste that opportunity?"

So he came back for another year as the leader of K-State's offensive line, which will face high expectations with all five starters returning.

Next question: What to do about his injured shoulders? Risner said he had played through pain in his left shoulder since the middle of his sophomore campaign and then hurt his right shoulder as a junior. Throw in a high-ankle sprain suffered in the second game of the season against Charlotte and it was a painful year.

He never publicly complained, but things privately got so hard that he considered sitting out the regular-season finale against Iowa State.

"It was a battle for me to get through the season," Risner said.

He hoped to then play against UCLA in the Cactus Bowl, but doctors informed him he would need surgery on his left shoulder and might need the same procedure on his right shoulder. Delaying surgery for a month would push his recovery time into his senior season, and he didn't want to risk that.

So he scheduled surgery on his left shoulder before the Cactus Bowl. Turns out, his right shoulder only required rest and the Wildcats ran all over the Bruins for a 35-17 victory. He thinks he made the right call.

"It was a tough decision, man," Risner said. "Being on the sideline for the Cactus Bowl was the worst three hours of my life, especially when your team is doing extremely good and you want to be a part of that team. When you are sitting there on the sideline and your offensive line is breaking records for rushing yards, that is tough. I’m not going to lie."

His teammates are looking forward to having him back and healthy this summer.

"Dalton brings awesome energy for our offensive line," K-State quarterback Alex Delton said. "He is huge for leadership. He will get on me if I’m not doing something right ... I am honestly excited to work with him. He is a heck of a player and heck of a person. He is going to prove a lot of people right, because he is the real deal."