- Brandon P. Oliver, Reporter, DuckNation
ALOHA, Ore. -- Early success often brings with it nearly unattainable expectations, especially in the world of sports. The No. 11 running back in the ESPN 150 knows all too well about living up to the hype.
After helping guide his school to state championships in both football and track as a sophomore, Oregon running back commit Thomas Tyner (Aloha, Ore./Aloha) knew what was coming.
"After my sophomore year, I knew people would expect me to be even better since I had two years left in high school," Tyner said. "I worked real hard to accomplish everything I have done so far in my life. No matter how much pressure is put on me by people that don't even know me, it doesn't come close to the expectations I have for myself."
Usually coached by his father, Tyner excelled at every sport he tried growing up. By the time high school came around, the 6-foot, 218-pound prospect knew he had to narrow his focus.
He ended up making the right choice, as he has become perhaps the most accomplished athlete in Oregon high school history.
As a sophomore, Tyner exploded on the scene when he ran for 298 yards against state powerhouse Portland Jesuit. He ended his sophomore campaign with 168 yards and a touchdown against Tualatin (Ore.) in the state championship game.
When the track season came around in the spring, Tyner was the leader of another state championship team. During the track season he became the state-record holder in the 100 meters with a 10.35. At the state championship meet he blew away the field en route to becoming a state champion in the 100 and as the anchor of the winning 4x100 relay team.
Considering his track career has only been underway for a few short years, Tyner's potential may be greater on the track than on the gridiron.
"I love running track. I'm a team guy first and will anything I can to help my team win," Tyner said. "But it's you against everybody else when you get out of the blocks."
The addition of Tyner and fellow Oregon running back commit Dontre Wilson (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) will provide a boost to the distance-heavy Oregon track program.
For now, the No. 104 player in the ESPN 150 is all about football. After an injury-plagued junior year, Tyner was beginning to hear questions about his toughness and durability.
"Honestly, it doesn't really bother me. They can say what they want to. If I'm hurt, I'm still going to play and help my team," Tyner said. "If I'm injured and can't do anything positive on the field, I'm not going to risk my future or my team's season."
Quiet and humble, Tyner allows his performance on the field do the talking for him. After a record-breaking start to the season, Tyner isn't hearing many doubters anymore.
In his first game, Tyner helped Aloha avenge a playoff loss last season in which he sat out due to an injury. In limited action, Tyner ran for 216 yards and four touchdowns on just 10 carries, also adding two catches for 34 yards and a touchdown.
His improved pass-catching ability is one of the things Aloha coach Chris Casey has noticed.
"We always knew Thomas could run the ball. We always knew how explosive he is. The biggest improvement he has made is his ability to be a receiver out of the backfield," Casey said. "He is the best I've ever coached at making plays out of the backfield in the passing game."
In week two, Tyner ran for 384 yards and three scores on 34 carries, with 251 yards and all three touchdowns coming in the decisive third quarter that saw the Warriors overcome a halftime deficit to take a 36-21 lead.
Tyner broke a number of long runs in the game, but more impressive was his ability to lower his shoulder into defenders and break tackles. The new habit is another improvement his coach has taken notice of.
"He has really learned to initiate the contact as a runner," Casey said. "If you get there first and you get lower than your man, they're the one that's going to feel the pain. You might go down too, but you'll go down falling forward. They'll be going down on the back."
There weren't too many questions after the first two weeks of the season, but after Tyner's performance in week three, it's safe to say that the whispers had been muted.
Last Friday, Tyner did everything to help his team improve to 3-0 on the year.
While also playing safety to help Aloha's struggling defense, Tyner kept his legs under him and exploded for 362 yards and five touchdowns -- in the first half. After halftime, the four-star back added another 282 yards and five more scores. He piled up state records with 643 yards and 10 touchdowns on 38 carries.
Not only was it the greatest performance in Oregon history, it was the third-best performance in the history of high school football.
"My line did an incredible job of blocking for me all game long. I didn't even get touched on some of my carries," Tyner said. "All I had to do was run to the open field. Without them I couldn't have accomplished any of this."
With 72 carries for 1,027 yards and 13 touchdowns in his last two games, Tyner has proven himself to be as durable as any running back in the country.
"I feel good. I'm in great shape and have a great team around me," Tyner said. "If we stay healthy and stay focused, there's no limit to what we can accomplish."
In typical Tyner fashion, the humble star celebrated his team's 84-63 victory and his 18th birthday the way few ever have.
"I just went to sleep. There's nothing else I could have done," he said. "I was tired."
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