Dustin Thomas was always the one throwing the passes even though he'd rather have been catching them.

The Ventnor native has wanted to play wide receiver since his freshman year in high school.

Thomas is now getting that chance at Villanova University.

Thomas played quarterback last season but has switched to wide receiver this spring.

"I always had a desire to do it," said Thomas, a St. Augustine Prep graduate. "I would have regretted it if I didn't have a chance."

At his first football practice at St. Augustine, Thomas jumped on the wide receiver line, trying to sneak in a couple of catches. But he was told to get back to throwing the ball before he got the chance.

Last October, after a Villanova game against Old Dominion, Thomas, a sophomore, was approached by his coaches about becoming a wide receiver. Rather than being disappointed about not playing quarterback, Thomas is approaching his new role with a good attitude.

"I believe everything happens for a reason," Thomas said. "I'm just taking positive steps."

Thomas worked with Dale Amos, one of his former St. Augustine coaches, before spring practice to gave him a good base from which to start the transition. As a wide receiver at Franklin & Marshall in the late 1980s, Amos set more than 40 school, conference and NCAA Division III records.

Thomas now works with Villanova teammate Norman White, a Mays Landing resident and St. Joseph High School graduate.

White missed all of last season with a foot injury, which was especially disappointing coming off a junior season in which he had 886 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 69 catches. After his breakout year, White was considered a future possible NFL draft pick.

"It feels really good to be back," White said. "But I try not to look at anything else. People are going to talk. People are going to say it hurt (my draft status). But I am just going to focus on the team and having a good season."

Thomas is White's backup at spring practice.

"I've been teaching him the ins and outs," White, a team captain, said. "Hopefully, he could back me up against Temple."

Villanova always starts the season playing Temple at Lincoln Financial Field.

White is happy he'll be back for that game. Sitting out last season was torturous, especially watching Villanova go 2-9 just one year after the Wildcats made the national semifinals in the Football Championship Subdivision.

White used that time on the sidelines to learn more about football and his position by charting defenses.

"I think it's going to help me out a lot," White said. "I am able to read coverage better and how cornerbacks work."

This season, White and Thomas hope to get past last season's disappointments as a team and as individuals.

Spring practice is a start for them to help the Wildcats get back to being a national power. For Thomas, it's about learning something new; for White, it's about getting back to doing what he loves.

"Maybe we looked too far ahead instead of trying to get better every day," Thomas said of the Wildcats' disappointing 2011. "Because of the 'V' on our helmet we have every day to get better as a team. We have to do the little things right."

Contact Susan Lulgjuraj: