Renfrow goes from legend to leader

CLEMSON–What do you do after catching the game-winning pass with :01 second left on the clock, securing a 35-31 come-from-behind victory in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship and your schools first national championship in 35 years?If you are Hunter Renfrow, you go to class, go to practice and prepare to try to do it all again.

“It has been great. I get noticed a lot more than I did before and I sign a lot more stuff than I did before, but that is all in the past,” Renfrow said. “But I try not to think about last season that much, because, as Coach (Dabo) Swinney says, ‘Last season’s touchdowns don’t win this season’s games.’”

It is that mentality, that “windshield” mentality that has permeated the Clemson program since Swinney took over midway through the 2008 season.

It is that mentality that is spoken of, but more importantly believed in by the players, because it has been proven with results—results of six seasons of 10-plus wins, three ACC Championships (two back-to-back), two College Football Playoff Semifinal victories, back-to-back national title appearances and winning the 2016 national championship.

“Coach Swinney has always talked to us about only keeping our eyes forward, not looking in the past, and that is what we are going to do this season,” Renfrow said. “We can’t live with one foot in the past and expect to achieve greatness this season.

“Last season was incredible, special. It was something that I could have only dreamed about, but our mission is to have that feeling again this season, with this team. That is our goal.”

Normally, dreaming of being a part of national championship would be as close as a walk-on would ever get—especially at a program like Clemson. But that is not the case for Renfrow.

The former two-star walk-on has morphed from neat story, to folk hero, to a leader and one of the team’s most consistent receivers. And it is that journey that gives him credibility when he speaks to his teammates.

“Hunter has done a great job of making sure that we went through the spring and mat drills and workouts focused on the future and not on the past,” running back C.J. Fuller said. “He keeps drilling into us that if we want to get back to the top we have to start again from the bottom. That we have to push harder than we did last year, because everyone will want to beat the champs.

“He is like another coach out there on the field, and in the locker room, and in the weight room. He is a leader and when he speaks other players listen.”

Whether Renfrow catches another touchdown in another national championship game, of which he has four—all coming against Alabama, he has given hope to every walk-on that they to can reach the pinnacle of their sport.

And that is something that he takes very seriously.

“I don’t think I fully understood how many people look up to me until last season,” Renfrow said. “I had a player at Oregon, a walk-on, reach out to me and just wanted some advice on what to do—how to get through the tough times, but I don’t really think of myself as an inspiration or anything like that. I’m just a football player.”

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