Oregon's first commitment for the class of 2013 came from a local star who could become one of the most important recruits in school history. Oregon is built on speed and getting its stars into space, so it made sense for a local running back to make his pledge to the Ducks. It isn't too often the state of Oregon produces an ESPN 150 member, and Ducks coach Chip Kelly has made it a priority to keep the few top prospects from in-state close to home.
The No. 9 running back in the country, Thomas Tyner (Aloha, Ore./Aloha) made the early call for the Ducks based on a number of reasons, but the speed in which they play and the way the Ducks feature their playmakers were both major factors for Tyner. The fastest high school athlete to ever lace them up in the state of Oregon sees it as an ideal situation.
"I can represent my home state, be close to family and be a part of something special in Eugene. My skill set fits in perfectly and I didn't see any reason to wait any longer than I did," Tyner said. "Everything just made sense. The coaches, the academic support, the track program and the family feel all played a big part in my decision."
Tyner, who ran a state-record 10.35 seconds in the 100-meter dash as a sophomore, doesn't need to be seen as the local hero. He just wants to be where he can become the best person and athlete he can be. He does understand the hometown hero role that is often bestowed upon him, and rather than feeling the pressure, Tyner embraces the fact that people look at him as someone the community can be proud of.
"I don't feel any pressure about it at all. I know Colt [Lyerla] is in the same boat. Everyone was in awe of him and he has just stayed focused and he did big things as freshman for us,” Tyner said. “I stay humble because of my faith and my family. To me, it's a blessing to be able to represent for the state of Oregon. I want to carry the pride of the state on my back while I'm at Oregon. I want people to remember my name when my career is over with."
When speaking to Tyner one realizes that he means all of that in the most humble way possible. He is the type of person that neighborhood kids look up to and he embraces being a role model in that fashion.
"I'm not even a senior in high school yet,” Tyner said. “I haven't accomplished anything in the grand scheme of things. I'm just someone with blessed with athletic talent. There are a lot of people out there that have important talents that I don't."
While everyone knows what Tyner can do on the track, Tyner still has some doubters when it comes to football despite his high rankings by recruiting services. A 300-yard performance in the state championship game as a sophomore made people look, but an up-and-down junior season due to injuries left some wondering if he is durable enough for college football. Tyner doesn't seem to mind the doubters as he knows that aside from himself, the Oregon coaches are the only ones that truly need to believe in his ability.
"I haven't always been the best about stretching and icing but once I get to Eugene they will make sure I take care of my body,” Tyner said. “I'm not worried about it at all. I know they have big plans for me and I have bigger plans for myself than anyone. My expectations are sky high for my time in Eugene. I'll be ready for college football."
In fact, some people are more in awe of his prowess on the track than on the gridiron. Tyner's speed, coupled with some other young sprinters, could be the group that finally gets the Ducks' track and field program that elusive NCAA championship. The Ducks have numerous top-5 and runners-up finishes in recent years, due mostly to the fact they scored zero points in sprint events. Tyner hopes to change that trend.
"Oregon is track heaven. Eugene is 'Track Town USA' so if I am able to help get some sprint points for the team and get us to the top of the podium, it would be a dream come true." Tyner said. "There is a lot of history with Oregon track and be a part of bringing that title back to Eugene would be amazing."