Tigers’ Renfrow has one last chance to add to his legacy
It was May 2017 and Hunter Renfrow, while working a camp in Hilton Head, was every college football fan. He spotted J.T. Barrett and did a double-take.
“This guy is still in college?” he thought to himself.
Barrett at the time was a rising senior quarterback for Ohio State who had already started 30 games, appeared in high-profile bowls and was part of a national championship team. Barrett wasn’t a freshman when Woody Hayes coached the Buckeyes. It only felt that way.
“I couldn’t believe he had been here this long,” Renfrow said.
Less than two years later, Renfrow is J.T. Barrett. He’s A.J. McCarron. He’s Chris Weinke. He’s that football player who has seemingly been in college since his respective university was founded.
In reality, though, Renfrow came to Clemson via Socastee High School as a walk-on receiver in 2014. That’s 118 years after the Tigers fielded their first team. This might seem contrary to how
social media is reacting to Renfrow’s fourth College Football Playoff appearance.
The memes have rolled in, everything from Renfrow in a black-and-white photo with former Clemson coach Danny Ford to a mock ESPN graphic that notes Renfrow “has been a senior for the past 17 years.”
“I’ve been hearing it all year,” Renfrow said with a grin. “It’s not anything new. My teammates have given me a bunch of grief for it. But I’m just ready to have fun this last game. Just be able to go out there with my teammates and enjoy playing the game of football. And enjoy playing with my teammates.”
His actual final game is Monday against Alabama in the national championship. Renfrow’s forever synonymous with the Crimson Tide on this stage since catching the winning touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson in the 2016-17 title game.
It was one of his 184 grabs as a Tiger. That’s good for fifth-most in school history. He owns the school record for consecutive games with a catch (42) and starts by a receiver (46).
Not bad for a former walk-on.
“He’s going to be one of the legends to leave here because he obviously caught the game-winning ball in the national championship,” said junior offensive tackle Sean Pollard. “I know that’s his legacy, but he’s Mr. Reliable. I know ESPN has deemed him as that. You throw him the ball, he’s gonna catch it — unless it’s like 10 feet over his head.
“He’s a hard worker, he just goes about his business and just shows up on the field every week.”
“Hunter means a whole lot to us,” said sophomore running back Travis Etienne. “He comes in here each and every day and works hard. He might not be the biggest, strongest, most ripped guy here, but he comes here and works his butt off every day. Just having a guy like that on our team to motivate us and push us, it gives us the belief we can do anything we want to.”
Renfrow is listed at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds. Christian Wilkins, Clemson’s All-American defensive tackle, added “Dad bod” and “receding hairline” to Renfrow’s scouting report.
“But it works for him,” Wilkins said. “I guess that’s why he’s so good, he’s so much older than everybody else.” He laughed.
“I’m just teasing,” Wilkins continued. “I don’t know why Hunter gets a lot of crap for being here so long. I’m actually a day older than Hunter. But it’s just funny he gets so much crap about it.
“I’m going to continue to give him a lot of crap about it, too, because I think it’s hilarious.”
Nearly every Clemson player who spoke with the media ahead of the team’s departure for the game admitted they’ve enjoyed the recent wave of Renfrow jokes. The mock ESPN graphic was voted most popular, but others were appreciated.
“I like the meme of him kind of shuffling through a whole bunch of different backgrounds,” said junior linebacker Tre Lamar. “There’s like the Egyptian pyramids and stuff. I like that one.”
“I like the one that compare him to other wide receivers,” said senior center Justin Falcinelli. “It’ll be like, ‘This guy did this’ and it’s a picture of Hunter holding a bag of fruit.”
Soon, though, it’ll all end. The memes, the catches, the games. One of the greatest stories in college football has one final chapter.
“I’ll still be around,” Renfrow said. “I think I’ll probably train (for the NFL Draft) around the Clemson area. So I don’t know if it will really sink in until next year when I’m gone. I’ll still be around my teammates and stuff like that.
“But hopefully we can finish it the right way and hold on to that feeling a little longer.”
Hunter Renfrow’s legacy at Clemson was cemented with the game-winning catch in the 2017 national championship over Alabama. Two years later, one of college football’s best stories reaches its final chapter— finally.
Clemson's Hunter Renfrow listens to a question during media day Saturday leading up his final game Monday against Alabama in the national championship.