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Walk-on Hunter Renfrow emerged as unsung hero for Clemson's pass game

Hunter Renfrow's success on the field this season has earned him a bit more attention around campus, but the problem for the Clemson receiver is, he’s still not particularly recognizable.

“I still look like 95 percent of the population at Clemson,” said Renfrow, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound redshirt freshman.

He’s small. He’s thin. He’s a walk-on. He’s looks more like a member of the chess club than the football team.

And yet, less than two years after he first set foot on campus, Renfrow has become a key member of Clemson’s championship hopes.

Renfrow has 22 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns this year. His 15.7 yards-per-catch average is second on the team behind Deon Cain. His nine targets on third down rank fourth on the team. He’s worked as a punt and kick returner, too.

For a player with no major scholarship offers out of high school, he’s done a lot in a short time.

“Coach [Dabo] Swinney always talks about dreaming it before you achieve it,” Renfrow said, “so you have to put it in your mind. It’s just dreaming it.”

This was always Renfrow’s dream. He turned down scholarships from a handful of FCS schools. His mind was made up that he wanted to play for Clemson. He was offered as a preferred walk-on, and from the day he arrived, he worked to get noticed.

“What helped me a lot was on scout team last year, going against the No. 1 defense in the nation every day,” he said. “It helped me improve a lot. Spring practice, I made my biggest leap, and they paid attention in the fall. I built momentum as I went.”

It helped, too, that his coaches -- Swinney, receivers coach Jeff Scott and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott -- all began their careers as walk-ons, too. They were willing to give him a shot when he proved he was capable of handling the job.

“Their jobs rely on if they win,” Renfrow said, “so they play the best players no matter what.”

Renfrow has rewarded his coaches with his share of big plays.

He caught his first career touchdown on the road against Louisville in a game Clemson won by just three points. He had a key 24-yard catch against Notre Dame that set up Clemson’s second touchdown. He had a career-best four catches, 93 yards and a touchdown in a shootout against NC State.

The dreams and the games only get bigger for Renfrow as Clemson makes its final push toward a national championship, and the fact that the coaching staff has faith in a second-year walk-on even as the games get bigger and bigger speaks volumes about Renfrow’s work ethic and ability.

“How quickly it’s come has surprised me a little bit, but I felt like eventually I’d get here,” he said. “God has blessed me with some talent, and I’ve been able to capitalize on it.”