Winter 2021 magazine ad

Hunter Renfrow scores 2 TDs to help Raiders make playoffs, as he remains driven by Christ

After starting the 2021 season 3-0 and entering their bye sitting at 5-2, the Las Vegas Raiders looked to be in good position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Then they lost five of their next six games, leaving them at 6-7 after a 48-9 shellacking in Kansas City.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

Apparently, that was the wake-up call the Raiders needed. They squeezed by Cleveland the following week, 16-14, and after a thrilling 35-32 overtime victory over the L.A. Chargers on Sunday, they closed out the regular season on a four-game winning streak.

Daniel Carlson hit a 47-yard field goal, his fifth of the game, as time ran out in overtime to clinch a playoff spot for Las Vegas. The winner of this game was guaranteed a spot in the postseason while the loser would go home (and a tie would have actually sent both the Raiders and the Chargers to the playoffs).

It marked the sixth time this season that the Raiders won on the final play of the game, the most since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, according to ESPN. And they become just the fourth playoff team to have a different coach in the postseason than in its season opener, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Coach Jon Gruden resigned in late October, and interim coach Rich Bisaccia took over.

“We just have a resilient bunch,” wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who scored two touchdowns Sunday night, said in his postgame press conference. “You’d like to think that everything we’ve gone through this season has brought us tighter and is going to help us as we go on and on and on in the playoffs. So, I love those guys, I’m thankful for those guys. I’m very appreciative of them and I couldn’t ask for a better group to play with.”

Renfrow was a big reason Las Vegas was able to turn its season around. Despite technically only starting nine of 17 games, he ends the regular season as the team’s leaving receiver with 103 catches, 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns — all career highs. Sunday marked the first multi-TD game of his three-year NFL career, gave him a score in three consecutive games for the first time, and gave him five TDs in the past five games.

It’s his best stretch of football since he entered the NFL in 2019 as a fifth-round pick by the Raiders (who were then in Oakland) out of Clemson. And the playoffs will be Renfrow’s first postseason action since his time at Clemson, which included two national championships.

At 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Renfrow is one of the smaller players in the NFL. That’s attributed some to his battle to earn a consistent role in the NFL, which has been all the more challenging lately due to COVID-19. He spoke a year ago to Raider Maven about finding peace in Christ when things around him seem uncertain.

“We’re trying to win every game but at the end of the day, that’s ultimately what matters, what your relationship is with Christ,” he said, adding, “Whenever football is long and gone and 100 years from now, [God will] still be there and that’s kind of driven me.”

Renfrow also shares his faith on social media, as he says in his Instagram bio, “There is only One and He took our place. Jesus is King!” In his Twitter bio, Renfrow says, “I dont Know what my Future Holds, But I know who holds my Future #JesusIsKing.”

Renfrow joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast in May 2017 to talk about his faith, especially after rising to fame in winning his first national title with Clemson. Renfrow caught the game-winning touchdown pass to give Clemson a 35-31 victory over Alabama for the 2016-17 championship. That game was on Jan. 9, 2017, exactly five years from Sunday.

“There’s never really a moment too big or too small because Jesus is always going to be there,” Renfrow said on the podcast.

After scoring the dramatic touchdown that resulted in a national championship, Renfrow shared how in the days and weeks after that moment, his life as he knew it changed forever. The platform God had given him was not the same as it was prior to that catch.

“I’ve definitely gotten asked to speak at a lot more churches,” Renfrow said at the time. “But I’m just trying to be that positive light. I’ve never really been a real vocal guy. Just how I carry myself and my actions, just try to reflect the Lord because life is about Him. When we forget that and try to do it on our own, He corrects us really quick.”

He added later, “God is teaching me to use my platform and to be available — available for God and be used however He wants me.”

Renfrow continues to live with that mindset now in the NFL with the Raiders. He knows football and this world aren’t all there is.

“Life’s about Jesus,” Renfrow said on the podcast. “It starts and ends with that.”

The Raiders travel to Cincinnati for the league’s opening playoff game, as kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

RELATED STORIES:
Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson a big factor in season as he trusts in the Lord’s plans
— QB Derek Carr after leading Raiders to 3-0 start: ‘All I want to do is glorify Him’
— Seahawks QB Russell Wilson wins 2022 Bart Starr Award for character, leadership
— Ben Roethlisberger after final home game: ‘Lord has blessed me in so many ways’
Ex-NFL star QB Randall Cunningham joins Las Vegas Raiders as team chaplain