March 5, 2013

Top Two for Risner

Gary Pinkel has been all but ready to offer a scholarship to Dalton Risner for quite some time now.

There's just been one problem.

"They just wanted to see me before they made a decision," Risner said. "They didn't want me to lie and say I was 6-foot-4, and then show up and be 5-foot-5."

Missouri's coaching staff saw Risner during his official visit on Monday, and apparently, he wasn't 5-foot-5. Not even close, actually. By the end of the afternoon, Pinkel introduced the powerful, 285-pound offensive lineman into in his office and formally extended a scholarship offer during a thirty-minute discussion.

"We talked about football for a couple of minutes, talked about life," Risner said. "They wanted me to sign the papers today. I told them I'll have to wait a little while on that."

After all, Risner has other options. On Saturday, Bill Snyder and Kansas State offered him a scholarship. At the time, he told that the Wildcats were "definitely my favorite right now, for sure."

After Monday's visit, his decision became a little more complicated.

"This was one of the best college visits I've been on," Risner said. "Kansas State and Missouri are the top two on my list right now. I don't think anyone can even sneak in there. They both treated me the same way."

"I went to other schools… they wanted me, but they didn't treat me the way Missouri coaches and Kansas State coaches did. It'll be a hard decision, but I love both schools."

Risner, who also has offers from New Mexico State, Colorado State, Wyoming and Northern Colorado, grew up about an hour east of Denver in a town of fewer than 1,000 people. He has a comfortable life in Wiggins, Colo., where his father coaches his football team- a Class 1A powerhouse and 2012 runner-up in the state playoffs.

His older brother plays at Northern Colorado, but small schools like Wiggins don't produce major college football talent as consistently as larger high schools. That doesn't mean those elite players don't exist at that level, though. Risner is a perfect example of it.

And he's looking to prove to the world that even Class 1A kids can play with the big boys.

"Over the years, people have degraded 1A so much. They say the competition's not there or that there aren't players who can play at the next level," Risner said. "I kind of have a chip on my shoulder."

But judging by Risner's description of Monday's visit, Missouri's coaching staff certainly didn't denigrate his small-school status. He said they "treated me like royalty" and stressed to him that the offensive line is a major focal point of the Tigers' 2014 recruiting efforts.

"They're losing seven guys in the next two years to graduation, and they had a lot of injuries last year," Risner said. "They're gonna need some young guys to play early, and I would love to play as a true freshman. I do feel like I'm good enough."

Whether he plays right away at Missouri - or another school - will depend on how the rest of his recruitment plays out. Risner said he'll visit Tulsa on Tuesday before heading back to Colorado. From there, he said he also expects to hear more from schools like Boise State, Duke, New Mexico, Washington, Colorado and several others.

But as of now, it's a two-team race between Kansas State and Missouri. Not bad for a small-town kid who wasn't ever supposed to make it this big.

"I want to prove everybody wrong who said I couldn't do it," Risner said.

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