NFL Tackle Dalton Risner

In July Noah and Bjorn spoke with Denver Broncos’ starting left guard Dalton Risner. Dalton was selected by the Broncos 41st overall in the 2019 NFL Draft following his five-year career at Kansas State University.  

In 2019 Dalton was named to the NFL’s AllRookie team after allowing only one sack in his first season. He was also named the Denver Broncos 2019 Community Rookie of the Year due to his volunteer work.  

While at Kansas State, Dalton was a three-year captain, becoming just the fifth player in team history to accomplish this. He also became just the fourth offensive lineman in conference history to be named to the All-Big 12 Football First Team in three consecutive seasons. 

Who Has Been Influential to Dalton In His Walk with Christ? 

“My offensive line coach talked about Jesus in almost every meeting room … ever since I heard him talk about that the way he did, not worrying about his job security, I promised myself I would always talk openly about Jesus” -Dalton Risner 

Dalton has had many people throughout his life who have been influential but says there are a few in particular that stand due to their impact on his faith. 

The first two are his parents. Dalton grew up going to church and says that throughout his life his parents were always there to help teach him and remind him of what his priorities should be.  

On the podcast Dalton talks about how as a kid his parents would constantly tell him that sports weren’t the most important thing in his life, but that who he was off the field and his relationship with Christ were what mattered most.  

Dalton says that he is forever grateful to them for instilling this in him. It helped him to keep perspective and avoid reaching a point in his life where he had to hit rock bottom and find God on his own.  

In addition, when he was growing up his dad was always reading the Bible, and on the podcast, Dalton talks about specific verses and stories from the Bible his dad would read to the family on holidays.  

This helped to solidify and provide an example of what his parents were always telling him. Instead of just hearing about how important his relationship with Christ was, he could see one of his role models living this out.  

The third person that Dalton says stands out in his mind is Morgan Burns, who was one of his mentors in college.  

Even though Dalton grew up going to church and believed in God, in the episode he describes how he felt like didn’t actually know God. This is something that he shared with Morgan.  

Morgan encouraged Dalton to open the Bible and actually spend time in Scripture. Dalton describes how much this advice impacted him and how doing so changed his relationship with God and his life as a whole.  

The final person that Dalton points to is Charlie Dickey, his former offensive line coach at Kansas State.  

On the podcast Dalton talks about the culture in football when it comes to winning and how a person’s faith is something that is expected to be left out of certain situations. However, Coach Dickey ignored this. 

Dalton says that Coach Dickey talked about Jesus openly in almost every meeting, realizing what was truly important instead of worrying about potential consequences this might bring. Ever since that, Dalton says he promised himself that he would do the same and not worry what might come about as a result of that.  

How Has Dalton’s Faith Impacted His NFL Experience? 

“This has been a dream for me ever since I was a little boy … but I couldn’t look people in the eye and lie to them and know that I’m going to have to pray to Jesus that night and act like I didn’t do it”-Dalton Risner 

Part of the process of becoming an NFL player is going to the NFL Combine to perform drills and be interviewed by coaches from different teams.  

Dalton talks about what this experience was like, some of the questions he faced, and how his agents prepared him on how to properly answer different questions.  

However, on the podcast Dalton says there was one important question he was asked by numerous coaches, but he knew he couldn’t give them the answer they were looking for because it involved his faith.  

Dalton says that this was extremely difficult to do, but that he imagined Jesus was sitting in the room with him as he was asked the question and that this provided support. 

Playing in the NFL had been his dream since he was a little kid, and he knew that the answer he provided was going to rub a lot of coaches the wrong way. Dalton even talks about how he feels his answer to the question potentially impacted when he was drafted.  

However, Dalton says that he is glad that he gave the response he did and stayed true to the promise he made both himself and God about making sure his faith was his top priority.  

How Does Dalton Handle Being Criticized for His Faith? 

“It’s definitely hard, but why are we down here on Earth? God wants to see how we respond to those battles”--Dalton Risner 

Dalton says that it’s hard being criticized for his faith. However, he doesn’t let this discourage him.  

He does admit that it can sometimes be easy though to let the temptation to lie creep in when faith can potentially get in the way of your lifelong dream.  

However, the NFL is not the only area of Dalton’s life where he has faced criticism for his faith.  

Dalton says it is especially hard when you face criticism from your own family and hear them tell you that what you believe is stupid and that you have no proof.  

Despite there being bad days and occasionally tough times, Dalton says that he has never let criticism sway him; he instead uses it as motivation. He talks about how he believes that situations like these are partly why God put us on Earth.  

Dalton believes the temptation to follow the easier, more comfortable path is the Devil trying to bring you to his side.  

God is not always going to put us in easy situations. Instead, he wants to see how we respond to these battles and how we use them to glorify Him and this is something Dalton takes seriously. 

What is God Teaching You? 

Dalton serves as a great example of the importance of role models in our life. In sports it’s good to have someone that you look up to and try to emulate. 

Whether we’re trying to emulate their skills, how they interact with others, their leadership, or any number of things, having someone who we look up to and who can set an example for us can help us improve. It helps us see someone we want to be like and then take steps to reach that goal.  

Having role models and influential people in our life is also important when it comes to our faith for many of the same reasons.  

Maybe we are like Dalton, in that we’re at a point in our lives where we believe in God but don’t feel like we really know Him or have a relationship. Or maybe we have a relationship with Him already but want to improve it, as we all should.  

By having role models and people who we look up to, we not only have examples in our life to provide us motivation, but also people who can help us improve and take our relationship with God to the next level.  

Role models can also be there to help us through difficult times and obstacles, which we are all going to face at one time or another.  

Maybe we’re playing the sport we play because we enjoy it and have fun, even though we recognize that we have a lot of room for improvement. Or maybe we’re the best player on our team.  

No matter how skilled we are at our sport, there is going to come a time when things are no longer easy.  

When this happens, we could choose to give up or stop trying to improve and become content with where we are. This would be the easiest path. Alternatively, we could view the obstacle as an opportunity to improve ourselves and put in the work necessary to get better.  

Just as we’re going to face obstacles in sports, we’re going to face obstacles and criticism in our faith.  

Working to overcome these obstacles can, and likely will, be difficult. Like they did for Dalton, they can seem like they might get in the way of a lifelong goal. Or they might come from those closest to us.  

However, as Dalton pointed out, obstacles and hard times are part of God’s plan for us and he wants to see how we are going to react to these while still glorifying him at the same time.  

Resisting the temptation to follow the easy path can be hard. However, it is not our job to take the easiest path. It is our job to work to overcome these obstacles and honor God.  

This is not only beneficial for us but can also be beneficial to those around us. When they see us avoiding the easy path and working to overcome our obstacles and stay true to God, we provide an example to others.  

We ourselves could potentially become a role model for others, providing them strength and support to advance their own relationship with God. 

As Dalton realized, even though it will feel difficult at the time, in the end we will be glad that we put in the work and we’ll see the benefits of our hard work and faithfulness in our life.  

Do you have good role models in your life? Are you making sure your faith is your top priority? 

Are you avoiding the work necessary and instead taking the easier path? How do you handle criticism? 

Reading Suggestions 

  • 1 Peter 4:10 

  • Proverbs 16:9 

  • Proverbs 13:20 

  • Matthew 5:13-16 

  • Hebrews 13:7 

  • 1 Peter 2:12 

  • Colossians 2:16-18 

  • 2 Chronicles 15:7 

  • Philippians 3:13-14 

  • Psalm 127:1 

To hear the conversation that Noah and Bjorn had with Dalton about who’s been most influential in his life, how his faith has been challenged and how he’s overcome these obstacles, what leadership means to him, what it was like growing up in Colorado and getting drafted by his favorite NFL team, and much more, check out “The Sweat Room: Sports and Faith” episode 12.