CLEMSON – Given the professional success of his predecessors and his history of big plays against Alabama, Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow could easily be a candidate for the NFL Draft next spring.
But he has at least two good reasons to remain at Clemson.
“I've got too much golf and hunting to do in the spring to leave early,” Renfrow said.
Birdies and turkeys notwithstanding, Renfrow may be just as NFL-ready as any Clemson wide receiver in recent history.
But he's quite content, thank you, to remain a college student and maintain his status as a “regular guy,” even while autographing magazine covers and leading the team in receptions.
“My life hasn't changed too much,” Renfrow said. “Clemson's a small place. It's not New York, so I'm just who I am and I get to hang out with my friends every day – and that's pretty fun to me.”
“He gets the job done whenever he plays us,” Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett said. “We definitely respect him.”
So how does Renfrow continue to shine brightest on the biggest of stages?
“I think it's just my competitive spirit, maybe,” he said. “And I think it was them trying to take away Mike Williams and Deon (Cain) and Artavis (Scott) and make us earn the underneath stuff and we've been able to do that the last couple of years.”
This year, expect Alabama to pay particular attention to the small guy running the underneath routes. But that could play directly into Clemson's hands.
“If they take me away, we hand the ball off to Travis (Etienne) or Tavien (Feaster),” Renfrow said. “And then we can throw it up to Deon or Ray-Ray (McCloud). Just spread the ball around.”
Things certainly have changed for Renfrow, who recalls lying in bed the night before the 2015 championship game scared out of his mind.
“I was super nervous,” he said. “I remember just thinking, 'Alright, I'm never coming back here. This is pretty cool, a dream come true.' ”
The dream got better the following night when Renfrow caught seven passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns and shared Co-Player of the Game honors with quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“The first touchdown I scored it was kind of up the sideline and the defensive back kind of fell asleep a little bit and I got by him,” Renfrow said. “When I scored the second touchdown I got comfortable and felt I was part of the game.”
Renfrow has been a major part of the game since. He'll enter the third showdown against the Crimson Tide in as many years as the Tigers' leading receiver with 55 catches and a well-earned reputation as “Mr. Clutch.”
Nineteen of Renfrow's receptions have come on third down, with 16 of them resulting in a first down – the sixth-highest total in the nation.
Now he's primed for the third installment of what he calls the Clemson vs. Alabama trilogy.
“I definitely will be excited, but I'm not going to be overwhelmed,” Renfrow said. “But I will be nervous. I think it's good to be a little nervous.
“It's one thing to think you can do it; it's another thing to know you can do it. We were like a kid in a candy store when we first got here two years ago, but we're expecting to be here now.”
And come spring, he'll be back where he's most comfortable – on the golf course or in the hunting woods – and dreaming of punching yet another national championship game ticket.