Dabo Swinney recalls Hunter Renfrow as a freshman bench pressing 125 pounds

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Raiders rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow had a long and productive college career at Clemson, but early on he didn’t look like a player who could make it to the NFL.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told NBCSportsBayArea.com that when Renfrow showed up as a walk-on, he was nowhere near ready to compete at the college level, let alone the NFL.

“The thing with Hunter is, you know, he was 150 pounds. He was athletic, but he was weak,” Swinney said. “He literally, literally benched 125 pounds when he came to Clemson. He’s a three-sport athlete, he was never in the weight room, you know he was always twitchy and fast, but never in a million years would you think he’s a football player if you just walked up. Sometimes we get blinded by how people look, we judge that book by its cover, but the game of football, if it was just about size and strength and running fast, we’d just go over to the track and sign everybody. The game of football, you still have to be a football player. That’s one of the key things in our evaluation is: Is he a football player? You can’t just look the part. You’ve got to be able to play the part. Hunter is one of those guys. We didn’t offer him a scholarship, but we certainly recruited him as a preferred walk-on because we saw some potential.”

Eventually Renfrow did enough work in the weight room that he benched 225 pounds for seven reps at the Scouting Combine, and more importantly he made a major impact on the field.

“Football players come in all shapes and sizes — they really do — at the end of the day you got to be able to play between the lines, and he is the epitome of that, for sure,” Swinney said. “When he puts that helmet on I don’t know what happens, he becomes Superman. It’s like Clark Kent taking his glasses off or something. He just has a gift to be able to play the game, and he’s still not anywhere close to a finished product.”

Whether Renfrow has ability to keep it going in the NFL remains to be seen, but Swinney is confident in Renfrow’s track record of exceeding expectations.