PILOT ROCK — Tyasin Burns burst onto the local sports scene as a standout basketball player at Nixyaawii High School his sophomore year.
The Golden Eagles won the Class 1A state championship, with Burns having a big hand in their success.
While Nixyaawii awaits the start of basketball season, Burns is tearing up the competition on the football field for the Pilot Rock/Nixyaawii Rockets (6-1).
“It’s really fun,” the notably quiet Burns said. “I’m trying to score every play. That is my goal.”
The 5-foot-11, 150-pound junior has pretty much done that. He has 2,083 yards rushing and 27 total touchdowns this season going in Friday’s Special District 3 crossover game against Adrian/Jordan Valley at Eastern Oregon University.
“All of this, he takes with a grain of salt,” Pilot Rock coach Mike Baleztena said. “He is humble and a great kid.”
Burns’ talents aren’t limited to carrying the ball.
He also plays linebacker, and is the team’s punter and kicker. He’s also caught a few passes, but not enough to put receivers Logan Weinke and Wyatt Stillman out of work. And, he’s thrown three touchdown passes.
Burns was named the SD3 West Player of the Year. He was a first team running back and linebacker, a second team punter, and an honorable mention kicker.
“It’s a blessing when you get that one player you can use in all the spots,” Baleztena said. “Not only is he shifty, but he’s strong. He’s a throwback running back. Just a little bit of daylight — that’s all he needs.”
Burns doesn’t dispute that he has talent, and in 8-man football the field is a playground for guys with speed, but nothing happens, he said, without the men up front.
“The only reason I’m getting yards is because of them,” Burns said.
Fullback Caden Thornton, who carves a lane or two for Burns every Friday night, said his teammate is a special talent.
“It’s super fun to watch him,” Thornton said. “We knew he was going to be good. This year, we beat Dufur — that was a big thing. Being league champs (for the first time since 1983) was something we wanted to do. He’s a big part of all of that.”
It’s been quite a ride
Burns owns just about every record for Pilot Rock football that is not passing or receiving.
“He pretty much has them all,” Baleztena said. “Definitely the rushing — he has all of those.”
In addition to his rushing yards, he has 690 yards receiving and five touchdowns. He also has two return touchdowns.
On Oct. 18 against Dufur, Burns ran for 441 yards, ranking him 13th on the all-time state list for yards in a single game in 8-man football.
His 2,083 yards ranks 15th all-time for yards in a single season, and he’s not done yet.
In addition to that, his 3,751 yards over three seasons ranks 10th on the state career list. With a few more games this season, and next year to go, he could catch state leader John Hammel of Dufur, whose record is 6,959 (1965-68).
On defense, he plays middle linebacker. He has 47 solo tackles, 29 assists, two interceptions and four quarterback sacks.
While he excels on both sides the ball, Burns has his favorite.
“I like offense more,” he said, “but what matters is defense. I do like to hit people.”
Burns has a following on the basketball court, and while he likes the sport, his first love is football.
He’s played since the third grade in the Pendleton Youth Football program for the White team. He then played at Sunridge Middle School before joining forces with Pilot Rock.
He saw a little action his freshman year, then piled up 1,078 rushing yards with 17 touchdowns as a sophomore.
“A lot of people think that basketball is my favorite, but it’s football,” Burns said. “I don’t watch too much football, I just like to play. I would like to play in college; that is the goal.”
Burns’ uncle Milo Abrahamson, who played defensive end and fullback at Pendleton High School from 1996-98, said Burns has been obsessed with football since he was a little boy.
“Since he was 5 years old, he was the type of kid when I would get off work, he would be waiting with his football and I’d throw passes to him until it got dark,” Abrahamson said. “He’s always had an insane work ethic.”
Playing for family
Burns dedicated this season to his aunt Alicia Abrahamson, who died shortly after the state basketball tournament of a blood clot. She was 29.
He also plays for his family, bringing honor and respect to those who came before him.
“Tyasin plays for all three of his grandfathers who have passed,” Abrahamson said. “His great-grandfather Carl Sampson, who was the former chief of the Walla Walla tribe. His grandfather Gary Abrahamson, and his grandfather Ron Burns, who passed shortly after a game against Ione last year.”
Burns, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, seems to have gotten a bit of his talent from Gary Abrahamson, who was a star player at the Chemawa Indian School in Salem for coach Ben Lawver. His senior year, Abrahamson ran for 516 yards and threw for 148.
Abrahamson, who died in 2010, also was selected to play on the East team in the 1974 East-West Shrine Game. When he was selected for the game, he received a congratulatory letter from University of Oregon coach Don Read.
Abrahamson later would play two years (1977-78) at Eastern Washington University, which was an NAIA school at the time. According to EWU records, Abrahamson was a two-year letter winner as a running back and return specialist.
“I’d heard his grandpa was a stud,” Baleztena said.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the family tree.