MOBILE, Ala. — Proud and confident.
Those are two adjectives to describe Corey Ballentine and Dalton Risner, who are both on the North roster at this week’s Senior Bowl.
Ballentine, the standout cornerback from Washburn, is confident he can compete with more heralded players from larger programs despite having played his college ball at the Division II level.
Risner takes pride in being a versatile and tenacious offensive lineman who made 50 consecutive starts for Kansas State.
“I take a lot of pride in that,” Risner said of his consecutive-games streak. “I’ve never come into a game and not been the starter. I take a lot of pride in being a guy who’s reliable and will be there for every game. Seasons are long and grueling and your body gets beat up, but it means a lot to be able to do that.”
Risner was a two-time, first-team All-American while playing against teams from the Big 12 and other Power Five conferences, but Ballentine didn’t have that level of competition.
One NFL scout said Ballentine is “definitely on teams’ radars.” NFL scouts described Ballentine as “athletic” and “twitchy” and said Senior Bowl week is “very important” as he competes against players from larger programs.
“It should help him as long as he trusts what he sees and in his own abilities,” one scout said. “He has to play with the same confidence he did at the Division II level.”
Ballentine, who received the Cliff Harris Award as the small-college defensive player of the year, said confidence won’t be an issue.
“My goal is to prove to everybody that I can play at this level, and this is my first opportunity to do that,” Ballentine said. “I’ve always thought in my mind I can do it; now it’s just about proving it. I just have to trust myself and I don’t think there should be anything holding me back.
“I’ve gotten here through hard work. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t work hard and I’m just going to continue to do that.”
Off the field, Ballentine is trying to enjoy the experience as much as possible.
“This stuff you don’t get in Division II,” he said during Tuesday’s media day as hundreds of players and media members crowded an exhibit hall at the Mobile Convention Center.
“I don’t take anything of it for granted,” he said. “I’m definitely appreciative to be here.”
Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy praised Ballentine’s blazing speed, special teams play and height-weight combination at 5-foot-11, 188 pounds.
“He’s got all the traits,” Nagy said. “He’s got an NFL body and NFL athleticism.”
Ballentine appeared in 35 games for the Ichabods and finished his college career with 136 tackles. Ballentine downplayed the speed that he’ll showcase at next month’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis, saying he’s a “well-rounded” player with good ball skills.
“I tackle pretty well and think I’m a physical player,” the Shawnee Heights graduate said. “I’m just an overall playmaker.”
Ballentine was also a dynamic return specialist with a 30.57-yard kickoff return average that ranks first all-time in school annals. His skills as a returner will only bolster his chances of securing an NFL roster spot in the fall.
Nagy and NFL scouts both described Risner as a versatile player who can play four of the five O-line positions. One scout said Risner, who was a four-year starter and three-year captain, is so technically sound he doesn’t have to rely on his natural strength. The same scout also liked that Risner — who was measured at 6-5, 308 — is a “nasty” player with a “mean streak.”
“He’s big, strong, smart, played a ton of football, great off the field. He’s gonna play forever at the next level,” Nagy said. “Just being around him here, I can see why the people at K-State love him.”
Risner appreciated the praise, saying that’s the type of offensive lineman he strives to be.
“You want to finish guys in the dirt,” Risner said. “That’s the type of mentality you’ve got to have. It’s a physical position and you can’t be a nice guy out there on the field. You can’t be soft.
“I’m trying to finish guys off every single play, serving up them pancakes.
“It’s not easy to play tackle and the play guard or center and then go to the other side, so I’m hoping to showcase that versatility,” Risner added. “NFL teams want a versatile guy who can move across the board, so I take a lot of pride in that and make sure I’m honed up at every position.”
That said, Risner prefers right tackle.
“I’ve been there the past three years,” said the native of Wiggins, Colo. “I love center, but I feel like I found a home at right tackle.”
As he studied the playbook given to him by the Oakland Raiders coaching staff, Risner said everything correlates with what he did at Kansas State.
“It’s nice to have been able to play for so long at Kansas State and master an offense like that,” Risner said. “Now I can move forward in this next stage and be confident that it’s not going to be anything too new.”