Justin Renfrow is a rarity; he’s a professional athlete living a public life where he sincerely engages with the local community. Renfrow, a West Philly native and product of William Penn Charter School, has been back in the Philadelphia area since COVID-19 halted the Canadian Football League’s season.
Renfrow went undrafted in 2014 after playing Defensive End at Virginia and then Miami, upon entry into the NFL he switched positions from Defensive to Offensive Line. “The biggest thing for me is, I got changed to O-Line. All these teams saw my athletic ability and kept picking me up as an O-Lineman without realizing I have no experience,” Renfrow explains. “They would constantly be like, we’re just going to pick up a veteran (because) we don’t have to teach him how to play O-Line. Well now I’m the veteran,” Renfrow continued.
Renfrow penned contracts with the Bills, 49ers, Packers, Cardinals, and Seahawks; but has seen the field on a much more consistent basis in the Canadian Football League with the Calgary Stampeders and the BC Lions. In the CFL Renfrow has been nominated for the Tom Pate Award, which is comparable to the NFL’s Walter Payton Award and started on a regular basis.
In an interview with the Plain Dealer, Renfrow talks about his experience coaching Middle School Football in Canada, as well as his influences for giving back in the community. “The reason I was able to get out of Philly was from Philly athletes. In 8th grade I played for Allen Iverson’s basketball team that he sponsored, and then in 9th-10th grade for the Hunting Park Warriors which Rasheed Wallace sponsored,” Renfrow harps. “My first cell phone came from there, new sneakers every week.”
On top of switching from defense to offense and making the leap from college football to professional, Renfrow expressed that the deck was stacked against him in more complex ways, Renfrow explains, “Going into my senior year of college I had coaches say they make sure I never played professional football.”
When asked about the prospect of joining his hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles, the 31 year old lineman said “I decided I’m gonna take a look at the NFL and see if anyone can give me a shot. A lot of people have brought up the Eagles, I definitely would want to play for them. I’m 30 minutes away.”
The Eagles offensive line was a definite point of weakness in their hideous 2020 season. A depleted O-Line is partially to blame for Philadelphia’s current Quarterback controversy and overall state of dismay. It might be smart for new coach Nick Sirianni to give Justin a call.
Overall, Renfrow continues to train for the upcoming CFL season and keep his body in peak condition. He hopes that when COVID is finally tamed he’ll be able to work more with Philadelphia youth and expand on the work he’s already doing.