Early this week Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney got a text message from longtime Clemson Sports Information Director for Football, Tim Bourret.
It was a picture of Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow on the cover of one of the new preseason college football magazines. Bourret’s message in the text, “The top 10 things you didn’t think you would see two years ago.”
Renfrow of course is the defending national champions’ “little hero” after he caught the Tigers’ game-winning touchdown from Deshaun Watson with one second left on the clock in Clemson’s 35-31 victory over Alabama in the 2017 National Championship Game this past January.
Two years ago, Renfrow, who stands 5-foot-11, 180-pounds, was a walk-on who earned his way on to the two-deep roster and eventually became a starter for Clemson. He is one of college football’s best rags-to-riches stories in quite some time.
“I just think it is awesome! What a great story,” Swinney said earlier this week at IPTAY’s Prowl & Growl event in Florence, S.C. “Obviously, you have to have some talent, which he does, but he just works hard. He has taken what he has and he has made it better.
“He was a 155-pound guy, now he is almost 180. That has enhanced his positives. That’s what you want to see with any player really. That is why he is such a great example.”
When Renfrow came to Clemson he was a preferred walk-on out of Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he played quarterback. He did have a few offers from smaller colleges, but everyone said he was too small to play major college football.
Because he always dreamed of being a Tiger, Renfrow walked on to the Clemson football team in 2014. Three years later he was catching the winning touchdown in the national championship game to beat Alabama.
“Taking what you have and maximizing your strengths, attacking your weaknesses and working to get better to be the best version of you,” Swinney said. “That’s exactly what he has done. He is a great young man off the field, a great student so I’m excited to see him mature.”
As a football player, Renfrow is a redshirt junior. Last year, he caught 44 passes for 495 yards and six touchdowns despite missing four games with a hand injury. In 2015, he had 33 catches for 492 yards and five touchdowns.
Of his 11 career touchdowns, five have come in the College Football Playoff and four in the two national championship games against Alabama.
“There is not much he can’t do,” Swinney said. “He is pretty much a well-rounded young man. He is very accomplished in a lot of things, but I don’t ever doubt Hunter in anything.”