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Hempfield graduate RJ Thomas transfers to West Liberty

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Former Hempfield football player R.J. Thomas has a new college home.

Thomas, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound running back, transferred to West Liberty from California (Pa.). Both schools compete in NCAA Division II but are in different conferences.

“I can't wait to get started,” said Thomas, a junior who played three seasons at California, a member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.

An injury that cut short his sophomore season has Thomas hoping to add a year of eligibility at West Liberty, which plays in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

“We're in the process of getting a (medical) redshirt,” he said. “Cal has to initiate it. It's not automatic, but I meet all the criteria.”

Thomas, a 2010 graduate of Hempfield, started in all 11 games at California in 2012 and was used mainly as a short-yardage and third-down back. He was released from his scholarship as part of the school's efforts to reduce its budget.

“I was disappointed they released me, but I can't say enough good things about the people at Cal,” Thomas said. “I'm ecstatic that the athletic director and coaching staff went out of their way to find me a place to play. I'm really grateful for the opportunity. Coming out of high school, West Liberty was my second college choice behind Cal.”

Thomas, a journalism and communications major who caught 15 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns in 2012, said he received 75 percent funding of a full scholarship at California but will get 90 percent from West Liberty.

“The coaches and administration at Cal did everything they could for me,” he said. “My teammates were wonderful and the coaches were wonderful. It was the highest quality. It was outstanding.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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