With a lack of opportunity knocking at his door, Dortch prepared to join the Canadian Football League. The Cardinals changed those plans with a phone call, offering a tryout the day before Dortch was supposed to go north of the border.

It didn’t hurt to have associate head coach/wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson on staff to vouch for him, either. Jefferson was familiar with Dortch from the wideout’s playing days at the University of Wake Forest. With Jefferson coaching with the Jets, he worked Dortch out after Dortch declared the draft.

Jefferson was surprised Dortch was coming out early from school, given that his draft stock wasn’t high. Dortch was honest: At 5-foot-7, he wasn’t getting any taller if he stayed in school.

His journey was hard, the multiple rejections hurt. But with the Cardinals, Dortch has found a place he fits.

Dortch had 15 receiving yards on three catches in five games last season while contributing on kick returns. Now after an entire offseason to understand the system better, things appear headed upward for Dortch. That showed in Cincinnati.

“I want to build off that and use it as momentum,” Dortch said. “It felt good to play against someone new and not my teammates every day in practice. Now that I’m here, it’s about proving to myself that I belong.”

Dortch views his recent success as a stepping stone towards his goal: being a role model for athletes faced with similar circumstances.

Dortch acknowledges the lack of success created doubt, but a robust support system helped to push through. Now it’s about inspiring others to do the same.

That’s why a small taste of success won’t deter his mindset from proving his doubters wrong.

This is bigger than me,” Dortch said. “Football is football; I want to teach people you can use football in real life. Sometimes things won’t go your way, but you have to go after it again. That’s just how life is. People can use me as a testimony in their everyday lives.”

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