SPRINGDALE -- The Burlsworth Trophy added a national champion to its ranks for the first time Monday.
Clemson receiver Hunter Renfrow is the first national championship-winning player to claim the trophy, which also means he is the first to make the game-winning catch in the national championship game.
Renfrow grabbed a 2-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson with one second left in the game to give Clemson the 2016 College Football Playoff championship in a 35-31 victory over defending champion Alabama on Jan. 9, 2017.
The 5-10, 185-pound senior from Mytrle Beach, S.C., was awarded the ninth Burlsworth Trophy before a packed house at the Holiday Inn and Convention Center. Renfrow won the award over California running back Patrick Laird and Wyoming safety Marcus Epps.
The trophy is named for former University of Arkansas All-American Brandon Burlsworth of Harrison and is given each year to the top college player who began his career as a walk-on. It is presented by the Springdale Rotary Club and features an all-star selection committee that includes Burlsworth's high school coach Tommy Tice, former Arkansas coach Ken Hatfield, four-time Super Bowl coach Dan Reeves and others.
Renfrow, a 155-pounder when he walked on at Clemson, said he'd heard of the trophy through recent quarterback winners Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, the first Burlsworth winner to compete in the CFP, and Luke Falk of Washington State.
"I mean, it's something that I always looked at and thought it was a great accomplishment and something I wanted to be a part of," he said.
Renfrow, 22, holds the Clemson record with catches in 41 consecutive games, a streak he'll get a chance to extend in the Cotton Bowl later this month.
Renfrow called his college experience -- with Clemson playing in the College Football Playoff in each of his four active seasons -- a dream come true.
The catch against Alabama was his second touchdown of the game and the fourth of his career in the CFP title game, as he also had two touchdowns in a loss to Alabama after the 2015 season.
"That's something I'll definitely be known for, but it's cool to be able to grow up in South Carolina and do that for a team that I loved growing up," Renfrow said. "Hopefully we can go get another one this year."
The Tigers face Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl in one of the CFP semifinals Dec. 29. Alabama faces Oklahoma in the other semifinal in the Orange Bowl.
Renfrow is part of an all-star walk-on group at Clemson that includes Coach Dabo Swinney (who walked on at Alabama), and assistant head coach coach Danny Pearman and co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott, who all walked on at Clemson.
Scott, who is also the receivers coach, attended the Burlsworth ceremony.
"I'm just so happy for him," Scott said. "He's a perfect fit for this award and everything that it represents.
"Coach Swinney actually brought it up a couple years ago, when he got some information about this award, he said, 'I can't wait until Hunter gets to be a senior, because he'll be a perfect guy to win it.' "
Swinney was not at the ceremony but was featured in video clips played for the audience, including one from the day he awarded Renfrow a scholarship in 2015.
"I tell everybody he's like Clark Kent," Swinney said. "The most normal-looking guy, but when he puts that helmet on, he's like Superman.
"Very few people come to college as a walk-on and as a redshirt freshman catch two touchdowns in the national championship game."
Renfrow played receiver, quarterback and punter in a game against Wake Forest this season.
"He has a great skill set," Scott said. "His awareness on the field, he kind of has a sixth sense of what's going to happen before it happens. Even for a coach he's fun to watch.
"In the game, I kind of have to remind myself that I'm coaching and I have to stay in the moment because you kind of find yourself in awe on the sidelines of the plays he continues to make week after week."
A clip of Renfrow's route, crossing from the slot behind wideout Artavis Scott on a rub play and beating Alabama's Tony Brown for the uncontested game-winning pass, runs in a loop at the top of his bio page on the Clemson football website.
"Hunter has that iconic catch a couple of years ago," Hatfield said. "And especially with mom and dad sitting with him right here [today], knowing what it meant to him with all his folks and grand folks being Clemson graduates. Just to catch the ball, fall down in the end zone, coming from a walk-on, I know the excitement for him and the inspiration it's going to give everybody out there walking on."
Sports on 12/04/2018
Print Headline: Renfrow adds snag of another trophy