SAN JOSE, Calif. – “There is a reason he’s had 22 catches, 211 yards and four touchdowns in the last three contests,” said Alabama defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi at College Football Playoff National Championship Game Media Day in SAP Arena Saturday.
Hunter Renfrow burst on the scene on college football’s biggest stage in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. He finished Clemson’s first matchup with the Crimson Tide earning co-player-of-the-game honors with seven catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
He started his time at Clemson as a walk-on but since then, Renfrow and the CFP seem synonymous. The best games of his career have come in the most important moments, most of which have been against Alabama.
The Crimson Tide are well aware of his ability and it is no surprise to Renfrow that he shines in the Playoff because it’s in his DNA.
“I think it’s just playing against the best, we know they are the best until somebody knocks them off,” Renfrow said. “Growing up in a competitive environment with my brothers and cousins, I just really enjoy competing.”
In the CFP, Renfrow has hauled in 35 receptions for 382 yards and five touchdowns. He holds the CFP records for overall receptions (35), catches in a game (10), touchdown receptions (5) and touchdown catches in a game (2).
Renfrow believes his success in the spotlight is because he knows where he came from. He joined the team as a walk-on in 2015 and was rewarded a scholarship after a breakout freshman year.
“I really don’t have any pressure, Clemson brought me on as a non-scholarship guy,” Renfrow said. “I’m playing with house money and just having fun. If I fumble a ball, I fumble if I drop a pass, I drop a pass which gives me a lot of freedom to just go out and play,” he said.
At Socastee High School (SC), Renfrow’s high school coach instilled John Wooden’s pyramid of success in his players. Topping off the pyramid is competitive toughness, performing your best when your best is needed.
There is no doubt Renfrow exhibits competitive toughness as well as anybody else. In his three games against the Crimson Tide the senior has seven receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns (2016 CFP National Championship), 10 catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns including the game winner (2017 CFP National Championship) and five receptions for 31 yards (2018 CFP Sugar Bowl Semifinal).
Last season Alabama did its best job at stopping Clemson’s most consistent receiver, who leads the Tigers in consecutive games with a catch (42). They held him to just 31 yards without a score but with a wealth of riches at wide receiver and a stellar quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, Lupoi knows they cannot key on him like they did in the Sugar Bowl.
“As soon as you hone in and try to take him out of the game you have No. 8 (Justyn Ross), No. 5 (Tee Higgins), No. 10 (Diondre Overton) and No. 3 (Amari Rogers) to deal with,” he said. “This is a team that’s well balanced and distributes the ball well, you can see it in the numbers it’s similar to what our offense does,” Lupoi said.
Renfrow is ready for another shot at Alabama and to finish his Clemson career on a high note with the opportunity to capture the Tigers’ third national championship in program history and reclaim the highest honor in college football.
Second-ranked Clemson kicksoff with No. 1 Alabama Monday at 8 p.m. EST on ABC from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.