CLEMSON — Hunter Renfrow took his place in Clemson's warmup lines Friday afternoon, the first day the Tigers entered fall camp ahead of the season, and peered at his surroundings.
The fifth-year Clemson wide receiver stole a glance at 6-4 Tee Higgins. Then he looked over at 6-4 Justyn Ross — and 6-5 Diondre Overton.
The 5-10 Renfrow started to laugh.
"There are some trees up there," he said of his fellow receivers, each of whom are expected to make some noise as deep-ball threats for the Clemson offense. "I'm looking up there and I'm small. I'm like, up to their chest. But it's exciting to have some big guys who can go get it done."
Although they're going to need his help.
Renfrow might be half a foot shorter and at least 20 pounds lighter than most of the larger Clemson receivers, but when the football season opens and those very receivers have massive expectations placed upon their shoulders, it just might be Renfrow who is among the most important people in the room when it comes to their development.
It is one thing for a sophomore like Higgins, a true freshman and the top player out of Alabama like Ross and an on-the-rise junior like Overton to hear what coach Dabo Swinney tells them. It is one thing for them to listen to co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott. But it is a completely other matter to take advice and guidance from a walk-on-turned star like Renfrow, who is part of the grind alongside them every day and who knows Clemson's system as well as anyone on the offense. It is a completely different matter to see the way Renfrow studies the playbook on a regular basis and tends to his business, then feel compelled to follow suit.
He might be small, but Renfrow is direct proof of what extra time away from the football field can do. And it certainly doesn't hurt that he has a national championship moment that will go down in Clemson history attached to his name, too.
Now, he knows he has a responsibility.
"We talk about it all the time, but the days are long, years are short. That's definitely true," Renfrow said. "I feel like I've been here forever, but also feel like I got here yesterday. I'm just trying to take advantage of this last year whether it's leadership, whatever it may be. Whatever the team needs to go have a great year."
Renfrow has the leadership quality every coach clings to in that he leads with his actions more often than he has to with his words, but when he does speak, instant respect and credibility follow.
Given the way Higgins performed in the spring game, the way Overton has developed on Clemson’s practice field and the potential Ross brings along with newcomer Derion Kendrick and a slew of other returners, the splashy talent at receiver is there for the Tigers to capitalize in a major way.
Renfrow has his own duties in the slot, but he understands he is needed elsewhere, too. That benefits Clemson greatly.
“We’ve got excellent, excellent leadership at each position,” Swinney said. “That’s really fun as a coach to be able to come out here every day and just know that as a coach you don’t always have to be the one to get them going.”
Renfrow can help, too.