The 99th offensive play of Clemson’s national championship win against Alabama was the biggest both for Clemson and for former walk-on receiver Hunter Renfrow.
With one second remaining and the Tigers trailing by three, quarterback Deshaun Watson found Renfrow on the right side of the end zone for a game-winning touchdown that no doubt cements both players’ legacy at the university.
Watson, the star quarterback and two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, was already going to go down as one of the greatest players to wear a Clemson uniform. But Renfrow, a junior, became an unlikely success story.
Refrow, who is 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, was a star baseball player in high school, but opted to walk-on to the Clemson football program. After spending a redshirt season on the scout team in 2014, he earned a scholarship in 2015 and started to carve out a niche as a sure-handed slot receiver. He came of age against Alabama in last year’s title game, so it was no surprise that he played a factor in Clemson’s 35-31 victory.
“Yeah, never in a million years,” Renfrow said when asked whether he ever thought he’d catch the game-winning touchdown in the national championship. “It’s been such a journey for me. It’s like I got knocked out in the third quarter and this was all a dream. I think my faith in God really got me through, just passing up the money to go to App State and come and playing for a guy like Coach Swinney, and a quarterback like Deshaun is pretty special.”
Refrow was instrumental in putting the Tigers in a position to win the game in the first place. He scored a touchdown in the third quarter to pull the Tigers within 17-14 and helped earn a big first down on the final drive with 28 seconds remaining.
Despite Renfrow’s previous walk-on status, Watson’s faith in him never wavered. On the Tigers’ final scoring play, the ball was always intended for Refrow. Not receiver Mike Williams, the future first-round NFL draft pick, or star tight end Jordan Leggett, but the smallish receiver from Myrtle Beach, S.C., who embodied the heart and soul of the Clemson team.
“I knew if Tay make his block and get the little pick, Renfrow was going to get in the end zone,” Watson said of the play. “I kind of smiled, and I knew before I even snapped the ball it was going to be a touchdown. All I had to do was just get the ball to him. I slowed down the moment, everyone made their blocks and did their part, and I did my part, and we pulled it out.”
Added Refrow: “I just knew I was going to have to give everything I had. I’ve dreamed about it since I was a kid, all of us, and I couldn’t let these seniors go down like we did last year. Just love them, and just appreciative for the opportunity.”
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