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Dalton Risner Spotlights Special Olympics with Custom Cleats


Dalton Risner has made a positive impact for the Vikings since joining the team in Week 3.

He made his first start with the Vikings in Week 7, which was the second victory in a five-game win streak.

And as good as Risner has been on the field during his career . . . you could argue he's already made a bigger impact off it – and that's 100 percent intentional.

Risner quickly connected with the wide-ranging Vikings Community Tuesday efforts, but there is one organization that holds a special place in the Colorado native's heart.

For the NFL's My Cause My Cleats initiative, Risner this weekend will be representing Special Olympics.

It all started during his freshman season at Kansas State, where he earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors three times.

Even more resounding than anything on the field, however, was Risner meeting Michael Carpenter at a Special Olympics baseball game. Carpenter, who has an intellectual disability, and Risner have been great friends since. In fact, Risner calls him one of his best friends.

Weekly, Risner would go to the Carpenter family's house or to Michael's group home to hang out.

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That friendship helped blossom Risner's mission to give back, with the Special Olympics as his focus.

"They're all about inclusivity and how we can include everybody, despite if [people] think different, if they look different, if they talk different, whatever it may be," Risner said. "And I think that's what we need more of in this world."

Risner joined the board for Special Olympics Kansas as a senior with the Wildcats. After being drafted by the Broncos, he then joined the board for Special Olympics Colorado. There, he would help fund projects through his RisnerUp Foundation, whether providing uniforms for events, donating money or helping raise money through Polar Plunges in the Denver area.

All of this work led to Risner being a 2022 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee with the Broncos.

"I want to be that guy that people say, 'Hey, he can be a great football player, but he can also be a great representation of someone who helps his community and someone who makes change in this world,' " he said.

Risner is also a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics, amongst the likes of Avril Lavigne, Damian Lillard, Michael Phelps and Yao Ming.

At the global level, it's less about events in the community (which Risner is still involved with), but more of that national outreach and exposure.

"I've always believed — right, wrong or indifferent – that the legacy I'm trying to leave off the field is much more important to me," Risner said.

He understands Special Olympics is well known, but he also wants his cleats to be able to spark conversation, whether it's what pushes someone to donate to the organization or to volunteer.

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Locker Room Conversations

NFL locker rooms are a melting pot of diversity. Different cultures and backgrounds, all wearing the same jersey.

The same goes for the different foundations that athletes represent for My Cause My Cleats.

"Every year around My Cause My Cleats, everyone has their cleats and everyone has this cool art, and it's like a reveal day whenever they hand out the cleats," Risner said. "Everyone's like 'Oh man, what is that? How'd you hear about that? I want to be part of that.'

"That's the stuff. That's why it's so special, because it creates that conversation," Risner added. "If it's creating that conversation in our locker room, I think it's creating that conversation in the public eye, as well."

MCMC - Dalton Risner Polar Plunge

Having the platform to wear unique cleats that raise awareness for different organizations is special to Risner and his teammates.

"It's an awesome opportunity for every player in the NFL to show gratitude and thankfulness and appreciation to these organizations that do great work," Risner said. "Whether it's their own organization or it's a different organization, it's the national spotlight, right? It's an NFL Sunday where you get to wear these cleats to warm up or throughout the week, the team's promoting it and everyone watching on TV is seeing these cleats."