Nearly a decade ago, Dalton Risner was one of 11 student-athletes seated on a dais to be honored at the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Scholar-Athletes Award banquet for his accomplishments in the classroom and on the football field at Wiggins High School. The guest speaker, Greg Myers, also had been an NFF Scholar-Athlete, and as he spoke to them and the room, he shared his advice for the path ahead of them.
On Monday night, Risner returned to the banquet, but this time in that guest speaker role, delivering words of wisdom that roused a standing ovation.
"I don't have it all figured out," Risner said. "I've only been in the NFL three years, going on four years. But I have learned a lot in my journey so far. And a couple things I wanted to talk about: one would be to believe in yourself. Now, I know it's cliché because I know you guys believe in yourself. You're high-achieving, you're going to play college ball, you guys are going to go get your degrees, right? That's why you guys are up here. You guys are Colorado scholar-athletes.
"But even when you get in the NFL, it's important for you to believe in yourself. … For me, when I showed up to Kansas State University way back in 2014, I had to believe in myself a lot, and I had to remember to keep those people around me that believed in me as well. Because in your career, y'all — and you guys know this already — there's going to be a lot of people that don't believe in you. There's going to be a lot of people that tell you, 'You can't.' … But more importantly, there's going to be people that do believe in you. I recommend that you keep those people really close. Because coming from a school and going to play at Kansas State, which isn't really a huge school … there's going to be times where you really need people in your life that believe in you, and if you can believe in yourself, that's one thing in this world that no one can take from you guys."
The other major lesson Risner aimed to impart on the young athletes and students was to "believe in something bigger than yourselves," even at the same time as they're pushing themselves to be some of the best players in the country.
"Everyone in here, I think as humans, our second nature is we always want more," Risner said. "Coming from Wiggins, Colorado, my dream was to play Division-I football. And when I did that, I wanted to be the best at it. And when I became one of the best at that, then I wanted to get drafted. And when I got drafted, I wanted to be a starter. Now that I'm a starter with the Denver Broncos, I want to be All-Pro, I want to be [in the] Pro Bowl, I want to be a legend. I wanted more and more. But it's very important to just look back sometimes and say, 'Look at what I've done.' Right? Like I said, in 10 years, no one's gonna care about the awards I have up. No one's going to look at my shrine room and say, 'How cool is that?' They're gonna say, 'What kind of character did you have inside?'
"… So I want you guys to take some time to reflect, be really, really proud of yourselves, because I know how hard you worked to get where you're at. Be grateful for what you have, fellas. When you're grateful for what you have, you'll have everything you need."
Below the Fold
As the draft approaches, ESPN.com's Matt Bowen has identified 51 different skill categories and assigned the best prospect for each one.
Need, say, a pass-rusher with the best ability to bend low to the ground? For Bowen, that's Oklahoma outside linebacker Nik Bonitto.
"An extremely fluid pass-rusher who can really bend and flatten his path on the edge, Bonitto is a prime fit for today's loaded fronts in the NFL," Bowen wrote. "You can scheme him up in one-on-one matchups or stunt him inside to use his short-area traits on his way to the quarterback."