When he caught what turned out to be the game-winning pass in the 2017 College Football National Championship, Hunter Renfrow wasn’t thinking about celebrating with his teammates. Nope, he was thinking about the Stanford Band.
After John Elway led his Stanford team on a last-second scoring drive, which appeared at the time was going to be a victory against his rival, the California Bears, in their 1982 meeting, the Stanford Band came onto the field before the Cardinal made a tackle on the ensuing kickoff. The band got in the way, after the Bears used five lateral passes to score the winning touchdown.
“As I caught it, and I am huge college football fan, so I remember Stanford and how they had their band running on the field. I never wanted to celebrate prematurely,” Renfrow said Tuesday to Eric Mac Lain during their Instagram Live interview for the ACC Network. “So, I remember looking around for flags, making sure there are no flags. I was still locked in. We still had one more play left. This is going to be a great win for Clemson. This is not going to be an unbelievable finish for Alabama. So, let’s go kick it off and let’s go win it.”
Clemson ultimately did win the game and at the same time secured the Tigers’ first national championship in 35 years.
“Everything we put into that season came down to that last drive,” Renfrow said. “You would think we would be thinking like that, ‘This is our chance.’ But we were just doing our jobs.”
After Jalen Hurts scored the go-head touchdown for Alabama with 2:07 to play, Deshaun Watson led Clemson on a nine-play, 68-yard drive, which he capped with a two-yard touchdown pass to Renfrow with one second left in the game.
“I can remember it like it was yesterday. I came off, he was kind of giving me the inside, so if I ran a quick slant, I think, I would have got him,” Renfrow recalled about the game-winning catch. “I came up stuttering. I faked out like I was going to run the slant and came back out. Thankfully, because I did that, it gave Artavis [Scott] enough time to clear the defender and I was able to luckily not trip because he did such a good job of coming in that I was able to slip past his butt and score the touchdown.”
Renfrow described the winning touchdown as “second nature” because they practiced the play, which is known as “Orange Crush,” so many times. Former Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott suggested the play because they knew Alabama played man-to-man nearly all the time when an opponent got inside their 5-yard line.
“It was second nature. You have Mitch Hyatt out there, you have Tyrone Crowder, they do what they do on every play. Wayne Gallman pulling around and sealing the edge. It was just second nature to us,” Renfrow said. “It was not anything special I did. I did that a million times. It was just everybody doing their job and doing it so many times in practice that it led to that, it leads to second nature and habit and it worked out, thankfully.”
And thankfully, Tiger Band did not come running onto the field.
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