TAMPA, Fla. — Hunter Renfrow is Dabo Swinney’s kind of guy. He isn’t that five-star recruit that is going to wow you. He isn’t very big either – 5-foot-11, 180 pounds. But he is a former walk-on. He works harder than anyone else, and more than anything he is the epitome of what Swinney’s program at Clemson is all about.
When he got back to the hotel after beating Alabama to win the national championship, Swinney thought about Renfrow and his game-winning touchdown in the Tigers’ 35-31 victory on Monday.
“To me, that moment, that epitomizes what our program is all about. You’ve got the five-star quarterback throwing the game-winning touchdown to the walk-on wideout, and that’s the epitome of our team,” he said on Tuesday during the winners’ press conference at the Tampa Convention Center. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the five-star guy or the walk-on, best player plays. You earn it. There’s no entitlement in our program. You earn it. Period! Everybody knows that.”
Renfrow definitely earned it. The sophomore caught a game-high 10 passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner, a two-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson with one second left in the game.
“I just admire his work ethic and just the type of person he is, the heart he has, just to be a loving person, regardless if he’s getting the ball thrown to him or he’s making plays or he’s just – he had the ball the whole game. It doesn’t matter to him,” Watson said. “As long as we get the win, that’s what matters. He just goes to work each and every day and never complains. Ever since he first walked on scout team and was going against, in my eyes, the best defense I’ve in seen college football that year with Stephone (Anthony) and Grady (Jarrett) and those guys over there on scout team and just putting in the work.
“Then Swinney brought him over to the varsity and the first team, and he was doing the same thing. Just being able to see his work kind of shine and letting the whole world see it is just awesome. He’s just a better person than a football player, too.”
Besides his winning touchdown, Renfrow scored on a 24-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and caught a key first down on a third-and-three play on the game-winning drive.
“I remember last year, everybody is like, why are we playing Hunter Renfrow,” Swinney said. “I mean, I’m at practice every day, and he’s the best player, period. It’s just amazing to me, if we lined all of our managers up, he’d be about the 10th guy you’d pick to be Hunter Renfrow.”
Alabama doesn’t seem to know. In the two national title games he has played against the Tide, he has 17 receptions for 180 yards and four touchdowns.
“They played a lot of two-man on us last night, and Hunter was our answer, because he’s unbelievable in space,” Swinney said. “He’s very difficult to handle. Deshaun did a great job of finding him, we made some adjustments, and man, I think he ended up with 10 catches.”
Swinney says it could not happen to a better guy, one who is the model of what Clemson’s football program is all about.
“I’m just telling you, that’s really truly what our program is – it epitomizes just a microcosm of our team and our program,” he said. “It’s really special when you have that type of situation. You know, these guys all buy in, and I’m really happy for Hunter, and he’s exactly right, never says a word, never complains. He’d go through and catch one ball. He’s just as happy as he can be.”