The last time No. 2 Clemson(14-0) saw No. 1 Alabama(14-0) in a national championship game, receiver Hunter Renfrow made the game-winning catch to give the Tigers an impelling 35-31 win.
To some Clemson football fans, Renfrow’s grab with one second left on the clock is known as “The Catch” or “The Catch III” depending on what generation of fans you ask.
In 1977, “The Catch” was the 20-yard touchdown reception by Jerry Butler from Steve Fuller with 49 seconds left as Clemson beat South Carolina 31 to 27.
In 2000, “The Catch” or “The Catch II” was Rod Cardner’s 50-yard reception from Woody Dantzler to set up a 25-yard field goal by Aaron Hunt for a Clemson 16-14 win over South Carolina.
On Monday, the Tigers want a win in any way imaginable and if it takes another “The Catch” to secure a third national championship, so be it.
Being at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, CA is new for the Clemson team but one former Clemson player shined in the state and for the NFL team that competes there on Sundays.
Former Clemson and San Francisco 49ers receiver Dwight Clark, 61, who died of ALS on June 4, 2018, is immortalized along with Joe Montana in the museum inside the stadium. The statues of each depict the 1981 touchdown pass from Montana to Clark to lead the San Francisco 49ers to a NFC Championship 28-27 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Candlestick Park, home of the 49ers from 1971 to 2014. The Niners went on to win Super Bowl XVI and rode the momentum to jump start a dynasty from 1981-98.
To 49ers fans there is only one “The Catch” and it was the leaping grab made by the 6-foot-4, 212 pound, 10th round 1979 draft pick out of Clemson. Just like Clemson has fought its way up to college football prominence and Renfrow has become one of the most recognizable former walk-ons, Clark turned a modest 33 receptions over his college career into a legency in California.
Clark had 508 receptions, 6,750 yards and 48 touchdowns in nine seasons with the 49ers and is ranked third in franchise history in receptions behind Jerry Rice(1st) and Terrell Owens.
Clemson won’t have Howard’s rock to rub, but they could take a moment to admire Clark’s statue sometime before lacing up their cleats or taking a step on the field. Former Clemson head coach Frank Howard said,”If you’re going to give me 110 percent, you can rub that rock. If you’re not, keep your filthy hands off of it.” Clark gave 110 percent on the field with Clemson and the 49ers and that’s why he is so revered by the administrations, teammates and fans of both.
He is a member of the Clemson(1988), state of South Carolina(2018), Bay Area(2011), San Jose(2017) and San Francisco 49ers Sports Hall of Fames and his number 87 was retired by the 49ers.
On Monday, if the Tigers need a leaping catch to win, they have the trio of Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Diondre Overton all standing 6-foot-4, tipping the scales at an average of 210 pounds and capable of making a game winning catch.
Oh, and Renfrow, playing in his last game in a Clemson uniform, is also available at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds.
Just maybe, there will be a memorable play in Levi Stadium and Clemson football makes college football history by becoming the first team to finish 15-0 and accomplishing it in the state where Dwight Clark leaped into NFL history.