INDIANAPOLIS – There are few positions in the NFL that display the brotherhood that exists among offensive linemen. Each year at the Combine it’s quite common to listen to the prospects discuss their relationships with players at their position who are already in the league.
That was the case on Thursday when Kansas State’s Dalton Risner spoke, and he mentioned a pair of individuals with Patriots ties.
Risner is close friends with Nate Solder, and he talked about his connection with the former Patriots left tackle.
“I was just texting with him last night,” Risner said. “Nate is someone I’ve looked up to. I mirror my game after Nate. He played for the Patriots for seven years. He’s with the same agency as me. I had the opportunity to reach out to him – talk to him about his style of play, ask him about the Senior Bowl, ask him about the Combine, ask him how to answer questions or how to carry myself.
“Also the work Nate does in the community. He has a kid that has cancer. How much money he gives back. That’s why I want to play the game. You won’t see my driving around in a Maserati or anything like that. I’ll be giving it away to people in need. I look up to him a lot.”
Risner explained that Solder grew up in a smaller community Colorado similar to Wiggins, where Risner was raised.
“Growing up, Nate Solder is from Buena Vista, Colorado, also called Leadville, which Leadville is even smaller from where I come from. I have no stoplights. I have one gas station. Leadville doesn’t even have a gas station, so Nate has a very similar upbringing to me. I take a lot of pride in my story. Not against anyone here, but I don’t think I was necessarily destined to be here. I take a lot of pride in where I come from and Nate has a very similar story.”
“I’d like to follow in a lot of tackles’ footsteps, not just Nate’s. But if I could follow in Nate’s, that’d be a dream come true.”
Risner, who was a three-year captain and All-Big 12 selection for the Wildcats, said he met with the Patriots at the Senior Bowl but had yet to sit with them at the Combine. According to NFLDraftScout.com, he could be a late-first-round pick despite the fact that some have suggested a move to guard may be in his future.
“I think every team sees me as a right tackle,” he said. “If they don’t, if they see me as a guard, I’m going to be the best dang guard they ever had. That’s my goal.”
Risner’s other connection to New England has come from his pre-draft work with former New England left tackle Pat Harlow. Harlow played for the Patriots from 1991-95 after being taken in the first round out of USC.
“The Senior Bowl was the first step, going against the top talent in the NFL 2019 draft,” Risner said. “And then throughout this process, I’m working with Pat Harlow, a guy that went against top pass rushers for eight years in the NFL. He’s telling me, ‘This is what you’re going to get away with, this is what you’re not going to get away with.’
“Once you’re done with that, you get to the NFL Combine and get around guys and you start seeing it. After this I’m going to go back and work out with him more.”