SAN JOSE, Calif. — Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow would have had a fine college football career anyway. But Alabama is part of what made the Tigers’ former walk-on famous.
Renfrow enters Monday night’s game with 2,123 career receiving yards. His two-yard touchdown reception to win the 2016 national championship in Clemson remains his most memorable highlight.
“It’s definitely changed my life,” he said. “You’re going to change after an experience like that. Hopefully I’ve changed for a good. You’d have to ask my friends and family about that. I think some experience that’s come along with it, more respect to be able to portray how the season goes. It really proves that we can go and win a national championship.”
In three career games against Alabama, Renfrow has 22 catches for 211 yards and four touchdowns. He was a thorn in Alabama’s side in both 2015 and 2016. The Crimson Tide was able to hold him to five catches for 31 yards and no scores last year in the Sugar Bowl, but he gets another chance on Monday night.
Alabama has been an unmistakable part of his story. It was a stark contrast to see a 5-foot-10 freshman beat Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2015. The Crimson Tide often had five-star defensive backs being beaten by a svelte slot receiver.
“I think people like to be shocked,” said Cole Renfrow, Hunter’s younger brother who is a walk-on tight end for the Tigers. “In sports, people like exciting moments and seeing people do things they didn’t think they would do. I think it’s really big, the excitement and the challenges that he’s shown people he can overcome.”
There were no lofty expectations for Hunter Renfrow when he arrived at Clemson. Even after winning a scholarship and a place in the rotation, he wasn’t a star when these teams met for the first time. There’s no hiding from history three years later, but he tries to keep the same mentality.
“I’m kind of playing with free money,” Hunter Renfrow said. “I’m just going out there and having fun. I’m not afraid to drop a pass, not afraid to fumble a ball. I’m just enjoying living my dream.”
Renfrow ranks third on the team in receptions and fourth in yards entering the national championship game. He has only one touchdown reception in his senior year. But Alabama will be watching for him once again.
“He has had a lot of success against Alabama, but that’s just been on a bigger stage,” Cole Renfrow said. “He’s had a lot of success in other games, too.”