The most productive game of Greg Dortch’s football career was almost the last game of his football career.
The Wake Forest wide receiver caught 10 passes for 167 yards and four touchdowns in a win against Louisville on Oct. 28, 2017. But in that same game, he suffered a rupture of his small intestine that required emergency surgery.
Dortch missed the final five games of the season, but he bounced back this year to earn first-team All-ACC status as both an all-purpose player and return specialist. It’s a comeback that has earned him recognition as the ACC’s 2018 Brian Piccolo Award.
The Piccolo Award has been given annually since 1970 to the “most courageous” football player in the ACC, in memory of the late Brian Piccolo. A standout running back at Wake Forest, Piccolo was the ACC Athlete of the Year in 1965 and played for the Chicago Bears before his career was cut short when he was diagnosed with cancer.
His courageous fight against the disease was an inspiration to the Bears and the entire football community. His story has been immortalized in the movie Brian’s Song.
Dortch is the fifth Deacon to win the award and the first since defensive end Matt Robinson in 2007.
“This award is special because Brian is a Wake Forest graduate and he left a tremendous legacy, not only on campus but throughout the nation with his strength and courage,” Deacons coach Dave Clawson said. “Greg has done a phenomenal job this year of working hard through his rehab and being dedicated to improving as a football player. Not only has Greg become an outstanding receiver, kick returner and punt returner, but he continues to develop as a leader and as a teammate.”
Dortch went through countless hours of full body rehab in the months following his injury and returned to the field by the start of spring practice.
He enters Wake’s upcoming bowl game as the ACC leader in all-purpose yards per game (145.8) and punt return average (11.0). He is the Deacons’ top receiver with 89 catches for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns.
The 5-9, 170-pound native of Richmond, Va., will be recognized this weekend during activities surrounding the ACC Football Championship Game in Charlotte.