"I had six or seven high school coaches that would send me text messages all the time about Hunter Renfrow... I heard a lot of good things about him and finally whenever he came up to our football camp, to be honest, I was a little surprised at his stature. He was probably 5-foot-11, 155 pounds and didn't look like the traditional wide receivers that we typically recruit."
Those were the initial thoughts of Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott when he first meet Hunter Renfrow back in 2014.
You probably know Renfrow as that dude who caught the game-winning touchdown pass over Alabama in the National Championship Game to give the Tigers its first title since 1981.
A triple-option high school quarterback, Renfrow's only college interest came from FCS schools to play QB. But Renfrow had his heart set on Clemson and playing receiver, even if he had to earn his was as a walk-on.
Renfrow would go on to redshirt during his freshman year to bulk up and add strength. He got his weight up to 176 and earned a scholarship in 2015. Now listed at 185 pounds, Renfrow is in the final season of a storied collegiate career.
While Renfrow is a nuanced route runner with some of the best hands I've ever seen, he still doesn't impress with physical traits. By NFL standards, Renfrow is undersized and he's way more quick than he is fast.
But despite what appears a limited skill set, he's not a player I'm betting against at the next level. There's a market for exceptional route runners that literally catch everything thrown near them and Renfrow is that guy. And he's a lot more.
I resisted "liking" Renfrow as a prospect up until I took the time for a deep dive into his film that made it impossible for me not to respect his game. Clemson's road win over Texas A&M in Week Two encapsulates what Renfrow can do for a football team.
Renfrow doesn't have a large catch radius and isn't going to be featured as an above-the-rim option, but that doesn't stop him from having impressive moments in the air. Take this rep for example where Renfrow creates vertical separation and makes a beautiful adjustment to the football to win at the catch point. This is an extremely difficult reception but Renfrow's concentration and body control make it look easy. Renfrow's tape is littered with him extending in all directions for the football and snatching it with consistency. His hands and ball skills are exceptional. This play set up an eventual touchdown that put Clemson ahead 28-13.
Renfrow won't be confused as a dynamic weapon after the catch but that doesn't mean he can't effectively produce post-catch. On this third-and-three situation, Renfrow runs a quick out route but notice how he adjusts and digs out the low throw. After securing the ball, Renfrow immediately looks to create after the catch. Just as he's approaching the 14-yard line, four Aggies defenders converge around him but an elusive cut allows Renfrow to escape the situation and work to the 8-yard line to set up a goal-to-go situation. His hands, quicks and agility allowed Clemson to covert the third down and set up a touchdown to increase the Tigers' lead late in the third quarter.
I've twice mentioned this touchdown that extends Clemson's lead, and while Renfrow didn't score it, he did make it possible. After two critical plays made to put the Tigers in position to score, notice who is sealing his man on the perimeter to allow Tavien Feaster to waltz into the endzone untouched. On a third-and-goal situation, Renfrow was the outside receiver and the man trusted to secure the block. Of course, he delivered just like he always does.
The Aggies offense eventually caught fire and were a two-point conversion away from tying Clemson at 28 with under one minute to play. The failed conversion led to an onside kick attempt for Texas A&M to try and gain another possession with the ball. But with the sure-handed and reliable Renfrow positioned to field the onside attempt, the game was as good as over.
Renfrow isn't the biggest or the fastest football player and never will be. What he is, however, is a detail-oriented, reliable and "winning" player. His competitive toughness to battle and fulfill his responsibilities on a given play will never be questioned.
Renfrow's NFL valuation will be interesting. He's ultimately a slot receiver with modest physical upside. But for teams that value football character and accountability, Renfrow will be a welcome addition to its locker room. He can help a team win games and that's what the NFL is looking for.