Wake Forest star Dortch leaving early for NFL draft

The redshirt sophomore was an first-team All-American as a kick returner this season

Greg Dortch outruns a Rice defender to the end zone for one of his four touchdowns in a game this season (AP Photo/Woody Marshall)

  The Wake Forest football team got a glimpse of what life without Greg Dortch is like on Saturday when the All-American wide receiver/return specialist missed the Deacons’ Birmingham Bowl win against Memphis because of a broken finger.

  By Sunday, that temporary absence became a permanent one when the redshirt sophomore star announced his intention to leave school and enter the NFL draft.

  Dortch made the announcement on his Twitter account late Sunday night. His decision was later confirmed in a statement from Wake’s athletic communications department.

  “It has always been a dream of mine to play in the NFL and I am ready to take the next step toward that goal,” Dortch Tweeted. “I am entering my name into the 2019 NFL Draft and I’m very excited to get to work to represent Richmond, Virginia and Wake Forest University in the best way possible.”

  Dortch represented the Deacons well during his two seasons on the field.

  He finishes his college career with 19 touchdowns in just 20 games, two of which came on punt returns. He caught 142 passes for 1,800 yards, numbers that could have been much higher had he not missed the last four games of the 2017 season with a punctured small intestine suffered while stretching out for the end zone in a game against Louisville.

  Dortch returned from that career-threatening injury this season to post a team-leading 89 receptions for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns before breaking his finger in the season finale against Duke  He led the ACC in all-purpose yards during with an average of 145.8 per game.

  His 1,078 receiving yards this past season ranks as the second-most in a season by a Demon Deacon, trailing only Chris Givens who had 1,330 yards in 2011.  Dortch’s 1,750 all-purpose yards are the second-most in a season behind Kenny Moore’s 1,854 in 2007.

   For his efforts Dortch was was honored with the Brian Piccolo Award, presented annually by the ACC to its most courageous player.

  “Greg informed us of his decision and we support him 100 percent,” Wake coach Dave Clawson said in the statement. “Greg was an exceptional player for us at Wake Forest the past two seasons. He is a very skilled receiver, a dynamic punt and kick returner, and a great teammate. We look forward to watching his future success. He will always be a Demon Deacon.”

  Dortch is the fourth Deacon to leave early for the NFL, joining linebacker Jon Abbate in 2007, wide receiver Givens in 2012 and safety Jessie Bates last year.

  Perhaps anticipating Dortch’s early departure, Clawson signed two four-star receivers during last week’s early signing period — Donavon Greene of Mount Airy and Nolan Groulx of Cornelius.