“Once a Duck, always a Duck.” And, “It’s not like he went to the Huskies.” Those are the first two things that came to mind when I heard Thomas Tyner was going to graduate, transfer to Oregon State and resume his football career for a year. The former all-everything back at Aloha High School and former Duck says he’ll be done in a month, move to Corvallis and resume his football career, two years after he retired for medical reasons.
What Happened to Tyner at Oregon?
I was at the Aloha-Lakeridge game where Tyner scored 10 touchdowns and 643 yards, on his 18th birthday. He did it because Eric Dungey, now of Syracuse, was scoring at will against the Warriors as well. Tyner’s elite speed allowed him to rack up yards in bunches whenever he broke through the secondary. At the Pac-12 level his elite speed matters, but defenders take better angles, they don’t miss tackles and what used to be 40-yard gains are now six-yard gains.
Tyner also started slowly because you can’t really play in the Chip Kelly offense without knowing everything. For example, if you can’t identify the blitzing linebacker while you’re trying to protect Marcus Mariota, you’re not going to play as much as a guy who can.
It doesn’t matter how well you run the ball. As the wide receivers used to say, “If you don’t block, you don’t get the rock.” Tyner wasn’t asked to block a lot at Aloha, if at all. In fact, he was asked to play receiver more than pick up pass rushers.
Then came the injuries, one after another. The first was a shoulder injury on a hit from Washington’s Shaq Thompson while returning a kickoff. I always hated putting him back there to do that. He’s too valuable and we’ve seen player after player get blown up on things like that. Remember Walter Thurmond?
But Tyner fought through that shoulder injury and then ankle injuries and became a very productive back, averaging 6.2 and then 5.1 yards per carry during his two years playing for the Ducks.
The Rose Bowl Against Florida State
Ducks fans should be thankful for Tyner for that one game if nothing else. Injured for weeks on end before, his performance against the Seminoles was a key in that win that got them to the national title game. His season wasn’t spectacular because he was dinged up and Oregon had other backs. But in that one game he showed he’s not just an elite college back, but a likely NFL back if he can stay healthy.
Tyner finished that game with 124 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries, showing fans an impressive array of power, speed and balance. Everything he’d been working on all came together. He was only going to be a junior at Oregon.
He Can’t Play For Oregon Again, It’s The Rule
By NCAA rules Tyner must go to another school after he’s retired for medical reasons, if he wants to play again. With his talent, Tyner could likely choose any school. Oregon State actually makes a ton of sense. He’s going to do one year of graduate work and if he wants to finish it up someday on his own dime he can finish that degree at OSU more easily than anywhere else.
If he goes to the NFL, he’ll have graduate credits waiting for him to build on when he returns. If not, he’ll just keep going to school and he’ll be done. Tyner is an Oregon guy through and through. His work in the community of Aloha, even after he retired from football, shows it.
I love that he’s staying in the state. Check back with me on that for one Saturday in late November of course. But he’s following his own path and for that he should be applauded.
Once a Duck, Always a Duck
I wrote that phrase as a title for a series I was writing for another site back in 2011. Now it’s taken on a life of its own. Adopted by the Oregon Alumni Association and others, it has become a unifying phrase at Oregon for athletics, students, alumni and all kinds of stakeholders on and off campus. As I see it, we either mean it or we don’t. I don’t see that Tyner’s done anything to make us feel differently.
Tyner chose Oregon first. He played with heart and guts through injuries and battled when the Ducks needed him against Florida State. Yes, he came in with a lot to learn. But every freshman does, and he learned. And he was honest about his physical status. He’s graduating, spends time supporting kids in the Aloha area when he’s at home, and has been a model citizen by all accounts.
Until he steps on the field against the Ducks in the Civil War, I’m rooting for Thomas Tyner.
Top photo credit: Craig Strobeck
A native Oregonian, Bob’s spent 16 years covering Duck football and basketball for AOL Fanhouse, OregonLive and Rivals.com. He’s also hosted a sports talk show on ESPN Radio and led marketing for the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.
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