• 66°

Clemson title game hero Renfrow seeks a bigger role

By Pete Iacobelli

AP Sports Writer

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — It seems impossible for any Clemson fan to overlook 5-foot-11 Hunter Renfrow after his game-winning catch clinched the Tigers first national title in 35 years.

But there was Renfrow at a Brazilian steakhouse on Hilton Head this summer alongside bigger teammates — defensive linemen Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence and offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt — all projected as high NFL draft picks the next two seasons.

“I know what you three play. What do you play? Are you a student manager?” Renfrow remembered the owner asking when he met the group.

The sticky handed, super-fast Renfrow hopes to wipe out those question s once and for all with a bigger role during his junior season.

“I want to help this team anyway I can,” Renfrow said.

Renfrow began his time at Clemson as a walk-on who sat out 2014 and evolved into one of quarterback Deshaun Watson’s favorite targets. Renfrow’s value shown brightest in Clemson’s two national title games with Alabama where he combined for 17 catches and four touchdowns against the Crimson Tide’s group of NFL-ready defensive backs.

The highlight was Renfrow’s pitch-perfect route on Clemson’s final play last January, a two-yard catch from Watson with a second left that lifted the Tigers to a 35-31 victory.

The image of Renfrow’s grab was captured forever on Sports Illustrated’s cover — and for Renfrow, it seems like he has signed thousands of copies of the magazine for giddy Tigers fans since then.

“It’s going to be a platform that I’ll have for the rest of my life to engage people with,” he said. “I love that.”

What he’d love this season is to make more of a mark on Clemson’s offense.

Renfrow started 19 of 26 games the past two seasons with 77 catches for 987 yards and 11 TDs. But the Tigers offense was filled with talented pass catchers like NFL first-rounder Mike Williams, Clemson’s all-time receptions leader Artavis Scott and tight end Jordan Leggett.

And despite Renfrow’s success, he’s continually pushed by highly recruited backups like juniors Trevion Thompson, Cornell Powell and Diondre Overton, and five-star newcomers like 6-4 Tee Higgins for playing time.

After making a difficult sideline catch at practice last week, someone called out to Renfrow, “You catch everything.”

“I have to,” Renfrow responded with a grin.

That’s the attitude Renfrow’s always carried, said receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott.

Renfrow understood from day one he’d always be battling higher profile receivers in order for playing time.

“It’s what drives him to get better,” Scott said.

Renfrow wants to expand his role to special teams on punt returns, using his sure hands and vision once he’s caught the ball to make an impact.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney stopped betting against Renfrow’s ability at training camp three years back. Renfrow came to the Tigers out of Socastee High near Myrtle Beach who projected more as a college baseball prospect than receiver.

But Renfrow wanted to play big time football and gave it a run with the Tigers. Swinney and Scott saw early on that Renfrow was smart and skilled, overcoming his lack of height with precise routes and a drive to hold on to anything thrown his way.

“He can change direction on a dime and make you miss in a phone booth,” Swinney said. “And he’s fast, too, he’s got some long speed.”

Swinney thinks Renfrow will show that off more this season as a focal point of Clemson’s attack.

Quarterback Kelly Bryant, a junior most likely to start off as Watson’s successor, said he and Renfrow have worked together to make sure the offense won’t miss a beat with so many pieces gone from the title run.

Renfrow happy to put the magazines in a box for now and take the next step forward.

“We’re tired of hearing about last year,” Renfrow said. “We’re ready to move on and develop the chemistry on this team.”



Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87


Blotter: Sept. 19


Kannapolis brewery linked to eight COVID-19 positives


Local Democrats call to ‘turn the state blue’ during virtual office reopening


Funding flat, enrollment down slightly for Rowan-Salisbury Schools


Catawba gets high marks in U.S. News and World rankings for fifth year


China Grove soap store sets sights on expansion into Kannapolis


Charlotte, UNC game canceled after 49ers place players in quarantine


Blotter: Sept. 18


County sees ninth COVID-19 death this week, more than 30 cases reported


Gov. Cooper announces schools can move K-5 to plan A; school board vote needed locally


Wet weather brings crashes, traffic to standstill on interstate


Salisbury man victim of Facebook scam, duped out of $2,000


Two charged after fight outside Salisbury home


Rowan-Salisbury Schools ships out thousands of old devices for refurbishing


Caught in the infodemic: NC school policies frustrated by scientific challenges

East Spencer

East Spencer to hold community day, provide free food, supplies




Landis officials provide plan for COVID-19 funds, discuss town’s financial position


Blattner brought technology into schools before it was cool


State has slight decline in SAT scores


New environmental specialists begin work on backlog soil evaluations


Friends, colleagues say Seay left his mark on Rowan judicial system


Rep. Howard says ‘still work to be done’ as she seeks 17th term in House