Ren­frow has one last chance to add to his legacy at Clem­son

The State (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY AN­DREW RAMSPACHER [email protected]­tate.com

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 high­pro­file 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.”

PHO­TOS BY GAVIN MCIN­TYRE gm­cin­[email protected]­tate.com

Hunter Ren­frow, shown at me­dia day Satur­day in San Jose, Calif., has 184 catches as a Tiger – in­clud­ing the win­ning TD in the 2017 ti­tle game.

CHRIS CARL­SON AP

Clem­son's Hunter Ren­frow lis­tens to a ques­tion dur­ing me­dia day Satur­day lead­ing up his fi­nal game Mon­day against Alabama in the na­tional championship.

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