Arizona Cardinals’ Greg Dortch determined to prove he belongs in NFL
GLENDALE — Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Greg Dortch’s NFL career was a day away from realistically ending last year.
Having entered the league as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Wake Forest in 2019, the 5-foot-7 wide receiver struggled to latch onto a team, seeing his name pop up on the cut list five times — thrice as a rookie — over the course of four years. The thought of having to find a “regular job” was very much on his mind.
But with the dream of playing professional football still burning hot despite the inability to stick with a franchise, Dortch flipped the script, opting to test out the waters in Canada.
That was until the Cardinals came calling looking for camp depth.
“A day before I was about to go to Canada to play Canadian Football, I got a calling from the Cardinals for a tryout,” Dortch said Monday. “Last year, I was supposed to be a camp body.
“Came in here not really knowing the playbook. I learned it in a couple days and just tried to make the team. … Everything happened so fast.”
Instead of toiling away in the CFL, Dortch managed to not only secure a practice squad spot, but he eventually found himself on the active roster for five games, including two starts.
Since then, Dortch’s comfortability in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense has taken a noticeable step forward.
This training camp, the wide receiver has continued to turn heads as he stacks practices, putting up highlight-reel plays on the regular.
He then carried that momentum he’s built this offseason into the team’s first preseason action this past Friday. In addition to his four-catch, 53-yard mark offensively, Dortch added another 89 yards on five punt returns, highlighted by a 55-yarder.
“We watch it every day in practice even all last year when he was on scout team,” Kingsbury said Monday. “He’s got a tremendous ability to make plays.
“I’ve said it throughout camp, his biggest deal is just getting our offense down pat where he knows it inside and out, is comfortable and can play fast within our system and consistently do that.”
And while Dortch has checked a number of boxes this offseason, he’s not about to lay off the gas pedal or give himself a pat on the back.
For Dortch, his journey goes well beyond the Xs and Os. It includes all the ups and downs away from the gridiron and those who stayed in his corner along the way, such as his family and Cardinals wide receivers coach/associate head coach Shawn Jefferson, who was the wideout’s receiving coach as a rookie with the New York Jets.
“Me and Shawn J., he’s like a father figure,” Dortch said. “Take away football, he’s really there for us. He really cares about us as men. He was the only coach that came to Wake Forest and worked me out. Me and his relationship, it goes a long way. For him to believe in me and for him to want to give me another workout with the Cardinals, it meant a lot.
“I want to be able to prove myself right, but also prove him right. He believed in me. … Being able to prove him right, that means a lot to me.”