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CLEMSON FOOTBALL: Renfrow’s big catch now part of history

September 1, 2017

CLEMSON — “Didn’t you catch a pass one time?”

The joking question was the way Hunter Renfrow’s press conference began earlier this week. The junior wide receiver met with the media ahead of Clemson’s season-opening matchup against the Kent State Golden Eagles.

The game-winning catch in the national championship may have been the most important, but for Renfrow — who has amassed 77 catches for 987 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career — it was a learning experience he hopes to pass along to a talented, young crop of receivers.

“The main thing is just don’t let the moment be too big for you,” Renfrow said. “Just come out here and practice every day, and if you’re running a route in practice, nothing changes in a game. You’re running the same route, and the field’s the same length and width and just put yourself in the game atmosphere in practice.

“If you do that, no moments going to be too big or too small for you.”

Renfrow has thrived on the biggest of moments — with four of his 11 career touchdowns coming against Alabama in back-to-back national championship appearances -- and the smallest of moments.

Now a wily veteran, he is excited about taking to the field to show the nation that this new team is ready for the challenge of being the hunted.

“We’re really just ready to get over the hump of last year. This is a new team, but we talk about we’ve got the same dream,” Renfrow said. “So we’re just ready to get back in front of our fans. We feel like we’ve got some of the best in the country and just play hard for them.”

Renfrow will be the only returning starter in a receiving corps that boasts the likes of playmakers Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud to go along with sophomore Diondre Overton and Cornell Powell, as well as freshmen T.J. Chase (redshirt), Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers.

But the former walk-on is not worried about losing his job. He is focused on being a leader.

“Those guys are extremely talented, but no matter who (the coaches) bring in here — you’ve got to develop,” Renfrow said. “You’ve got a lot of raw talent that Coach (Jeff) Scott and our coaches do a great job of kind of critiquing and making better. So one day they will be a Mike Williams first-round pick. But it’s cool coming in and kind of leading them through my experiences and my perspectives on being here for two years.”

For those years, Renfrow was the beneficiary of having arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of the program throwing him the ball in current Houston Texan Deshaun Watson.

This year will begin with junior Kelly Bryant getting the start for the Tigers in the opening game. And while it may take some time to get the game-speed rhythm down between the receivers and Bryant, Renfrow has all the confidence they will make it work on the field come game time.

“(The rhythm) is going to take time,” Renfrow said. “Me and Deshaun were there for two years together, and Kelly’s just coming in. But it’s not like this is the first year I’ve been with Kelly. I’ve also been with him last year and the year before that. So it’s going to take time as far as the games, but we have confidence — and he does with all the receivers.”

Legendary moments like the one Renfrow had in the national championship game do not come by mere happenstance. They are the product of working hours perfecting a craft.

For Renfrow, the perfection of his craft is far from complete.

“Just catching the ball away from my body,” Renfrow said. “You can see on the last play of the national championship that I kind of caught it against my pads, and if he was that much closer, he could’ve kind of knocked it out. So just catching it out in front of me with my hands.

“And like we’ve been talking about, leadership. I recognize that I’m one of the older guys on the team and one of the more experienced guys. So just being able to be calm in the pressure situations and play every game like it’s my last.”