A childhood dream is now reality for Dalton Risner.
Risner, a former Kansas State offensive lineman who grew up in the tiny Colorado town of Wiggins, is headed to the NFL as a member of the Denver Broncos.
Denver selected Risner in the second round of the NFL Draft with the 41st overall pick on Friday, and then introduced him to fans on social media by proclaiming “the hometown kid’s coming home.”
“He was happy, obviously,” Broncos general manager John Elway said after speaking with Risner on the phone. “We spent a lot of time with him. He lived out east for a long, long time so it is just nice to have him coming here to Denver. He was a guy that we coveted and we are glad that we were able to get him in the second round.
“He is very versatile and he can play a lot of different positions. He has played tackle. We are going to try him at guard. But he plays with an attitude and toughness, so he will add a lot to our offensive line.”
To better illustrate just how much it means to Risner to play for the Denver Broncos and for a local football legend like Elway to praise him, you must go back to his time at the Senior Bowl earlier this year when he first began auditioning for NFL teams.
“I’d love to play for any of the 32 teams,” Risner told reporters at the time. “But if I got to come home to play for the Denver Broncos, man, I’d need at least a day to cry in my room. It would just be a blessing.”
This was also a big moment for K-State football.
Risner is the highest Wildcats draft pick since Josh Freeman went in the first round back in 2009. Since then, K-State has produced three second-round picks (Daniel Thomas, Arthur Brown, Cody Whitehair) but none of them went higher than No. 56.
That changed on Friday. Risner was drafted higher than any other K-State offensive lineman.
Risner took a unique path to this point. His journey to the NFL will rank among the most unorthodox of the draft. Though he matured into an all-conference right tackle for the Wildcats, it was difficult for him to create much recruiting buzz growing up in Wiggins.
He eventually received scholarship offers from power-conference schools such as Arizona State, Colorado and K-State, but not until he personally sent highlight clips to assistant coaches and asked if they might be interested in his services.
Risner, a 6-foot-5 offensive lineman, started out as a center for the Wildcats but emerged as an elite blocker on the right edge of K-State’s line. He spent five years in Manhattan and was a part of four bowl games and dozens of victories as a four-year starter.
It appears the Broncos will try him at guard.
Most expected Risner to be selected in the early rounds of the draft, and some gave him an outside shot at hearing his name in the first round. When that didn’t happen on Thursday, it seemed like a lock he would go at some point on Friday. And that’s exactly what happened.
Experts view Risner as a plug-and-play blocker who could start immediately at several positions as a rookie.
That’s something he could have done anywhere. But it will mean a little extra for him beginning his NFL career in his home state.