, a 6-foot, 207-pound senior running back from Aloha (Beaverton, Ore.)
, will never forget his 18th birthday.
Prior to last Friday's game against Lakeridge (Lake Oswego, Ore.), Tyner feasted on cupcakes and received the traditional three claps from coaches and teammates. He then proceeded to have the greatest game in Oregon football history, not to mention one of the best ever on the national scene.
All he did was explode for a state-record 643 yards (on 38 carries) and 10 touchdowns en route to a wild 84-63 victory, which turned out to be the highest-scoring game in Oregon history. His yardage ranks third all-time in the nation and his touchdowns are tied for third. Seven of his touchdowns were from between 40 and 65 yards. The Warriors needed every one, because the score was tied at 63 with 8 minutes left.
Ranked as the No. 10 recruit in the nation
, Tyner told MaxPreps, "The tempo was crazy. It was just like playing catch-up a lot, going back and forth. My heart was racing the whole game. I had huge holes. I never even dreamed of that. I just expected to play a normal game. I was shocked."
Following a record-setting performance — on his birthday, no less — how did the high school senior choose to celebrate?
"After that game I just went to bed," said Tyner. "We had the guys over for cake on Saturday."
The fallout from the prodigious feat was immediate and nationwide in scope. Tyner estimates that he has already received more than 1,000 tweets, 100 texts and close to 20 phone calls. One of the tweets came from NFL coach Pete Carroll. Though being protected from overexposure by coaches and family, he has also done at least a half dozen interviews.
Aloha coach Chris Casey, who will leave the school to attempt to resurrect the George Fox University football program in January, admits, "I'm still in a fog. There were (often) eight or 10 guys who had a head start with a good angle and help and he just literally out-ran them. His acceleration, I've never seen anything like it. He just energizes our team. Every time he touches the ball the crowd is on the edge of their seats, because he can go all the way. We had excellent point-of-attack blocking. He's murder on defenses when he gets that kind of blocking. He's only had four or five games in his career when he carried over 30 times."
Assistant coach Bill Volk, who will succeed Casey for the 2013 campaign, said, "It's still a little surreal. We always wondered what he could do if we played him the whole game. He is a phenomenal human being and athlete. His speed, work ethic and maturity have really been fun to be a part of. He's such a good person and comes from a great family. He's humble, quiet and a little bit of a joker."
Tyner has been playing football since third grade — following older brother Michael — and running track since fifth grade. In football, he always has competed against older players. The difference-maker was his brilliant speed as well as a muscular body.
"I just ran straight up the field," he said of his early years. "I was always faster — a gift from God, I guess."
Thomas first showed that burst of speed before he even started elementary school, according to his mother, Donna Tyner.
She recalled that the boys' father, John Tyner, used to have Michael (two years older) and Thomas race each other in a local park. Michael, of course, always won and that really upset Thomas.
"So John started giving Thomas a head start one time and he just blew the socks off Michael," she said.
Casey said coaches told him that Tyner ran the 40-yard dash in an incredible (hand-timed) 4.38 seconds as an eighth grader.
"If that would have been true, he would have been the third-fastest back at the NFL combine that year," Casey marveled.
Casey admits that Tyner probably could have started his freshman year on the varsity team. However, the blue-collar community likes to move young athletes slowly through the process socially and academically and not put too much pressure on them athletically.
Tyner did work his way through freshman and JV games and made an impact on the varsity before the season ended.
When he did see varsity action, Tyner admitted, "It was kind of scary for me because I was only about a buck-70 (170 pounds). The amount of playing time I had made me happy."
The super-talented youngster made an immediate impact on the varsity track team as a freshman, even though he admitted "My form was awful. I focused on form drills, film and worked at it. Coach Volk (who was also head track coach) helped me a lot. That's when I started developing a passion for track. I always had a passion for football."
His passion and hard work paid off when he finished second in the Class 6A state meet 100-meter dash in 10.5 seconds.
As a sophomore he rose to statewide prominence in both sports.
Though splitting time at running back, Tyner finished the year with 1,821 yards (9.2 per carry) and 19 touchdowns. Uncharacteristic of a young player, he lost only two fumbles. He ran for 161 yards and a touchdown to help the Warriors defeat Tualatin 34-13 for their first Class 6A state title. They reeled off 13 consecutive victories after losing their opener (33-21) to the same team. He also was named State Player of the Year.
Tyner lived up to his nickname, "Dash," by setting a state record in the 100-meter dash during a dual meet against Lincoln (Portland, Ore.). His record time was a sizzling 10.35 seconds.
"It was awesome, because I also qualified to run in New York (Adidas Dream 100) later that year," he said.
At the state meet, he won the 100 in 10.48 seconds and ran a leg on the championship 4x100 relay team. He was unable to run the 200 due to a tender hamstring that has plagued him on and off during his career.
That summer he placed fifth in the Adidas race with a 10.7 clocking on a rainy, windy day.
Coming off a brilliant sophomore year, Tyner appeared primed for an even greater junior campaign. However, he suffered a concussion early in the football season. He came back later in the year, only to fracture his right ankle and was able to play only about five games. His junior track season was more of the same, with pulled hamstrings plaguing him. He came back too early and got reinjured, eventually costing him the chance to defend his state title in the 100.
"I was very disappointed, because I wanted to run a 10.1 and break the record," he said.
Perhaps the injuries, though, have set him on a course for his greatest year as a senior. He did physical therapy and worked with a trainer all summer to get stronger. He appears to be in the best shape of his career.
He probably won't receive any more defensive attention than in the past, because he's been considered the state's top running back for the past three years.
"They can try anything they want," he said of future opponents. "My guys block pretty well and they can adjust pretty well."
Tyner has chosen to attend the University of Oregon and hopes to graduate in January so he can attend spring football practice. He wants to major in journalism, and plans to compete in football and track at Oregon.
He would love to do both professionally some day if the opportunity arises. The 2016 Olympic Games provide another authentic goal.
Meanwhile Aloha fans should enjoy the rest of the season with Tyner.
"It's going to be pretty rare if we ever get another kid like Thomas," said Volk.Watch more videos of Aloha football