Sean Renfree made history when he became the Duke Blue Devils’ first NFL draft pick in nine years. The bigger surprise was that he was still available by the time Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff made the call to Renfree that he’d been chosen at selection number 249 overall.
Or was it?
Renfree’s accomplishments during his time at Notre Dame Preparatory High School were neither few nor far between. From passing for 1,533 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore to his more-than-merely-impressive 3,353 passing yards with 41 touchdowns as a senior, the skills were there and becoming more focused every year. He was selected to the 2008 Parade All-American team, named Arizona’s Big School Class 5A and 4A Player of the Year and earned a spot on the All-Arizona team. As a side note, he lettered in all four years at Notre Dame Prep.
When Renfree finally took the field for Duke in 2009, he only saw action for five games before a torn ACL took him out for the season. In those five games, however, he completed 34 of 50 passes for 330 yards. Not bad for his first time out, but there was definitely room for improvement.
In 2010, Renfree was back from his injury and better than ever. The recipient of the Carman Falcone Award as Duke’s Most Valuable Player participated in 12 games with 11 starts and 14 touchdowns to his credit. Being one of only seven sophomores in the nation to throw for at least 3,000 yards was only one of his notable feats. He was ranked first in the ACC and tenth in the nation for the most completions per game. Logging 742 snaps that year, Renfree set the school record by throwing at least one touchdown pass in each of his first five starts.
Renfree continued his winning tradition in 2011, with 12 starts as team co-captain and 282 completions of 434 pass attempts. Setting the school’s single-season record for pass completion percentage included 745 snaps and an overwhelming 368 yards at Boston College. He passed for over 150 yards in all 12 games. Duke football was gaining well-deserved attention on the national scene due largely to Renfree’s efforts.
Missing only one game in 2012 (due to injury), Renfree logged 297 completions of 442 passes with 19 touchdowns and a total of 3,113 yards. Renfree helped his team make it to the 2012 Belk Bowl, their first bowl appearance since 1995. Though Duke suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats, Renfree’s legacy was cemented in the Duke history books.
Surely the only reason Renfree was still available when the Falcons drafted him was because of his injury history, including but not limited to the injury and subsequent surgery that prevented him from participating in the NFL Combine. Either way, the other teams’ loss is certainly the Falcons’ gain…and will be for years to come.