DWTS 14 champion Donald Driver shows: DWTS fans love football players

Los Angeles may have a high-level basketball team, but it doesn’t have a football team. What are we missing? A field of possible “Dancing with the Stars” contestants because America has spoken: “Dancing with the Stars” fans love football players. Last night on “Dancing with the Stars,” Green Bay Packer Donald Driver became the third football player to win the mirrorball trophy.

  1. Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd
  2. Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas
  3. William Levy and Cheryl Burke

His partner Peta Murgatroyd was only on her second season of DWTS. Last season, Murgatroyd was paired with another athlete: Laker small forward Ron Artest who has just adopted the name Metta World Peace. Artest and Murgatroyd danced the cha cha cha to “Krazy” by Pitbull featuring Lil Jon
to a lackluster score of 14 (5, 4, 5). They were the low score for that week and the first team to leave.

Consider that during season 9, retired NFL star Michael Irvin received a 13 for his first dance and survived to be the eighth contestant out of 16 eliminated. Irvin played for the Dallas Cowboys (3 times Super Bowl champion) and in 2007 was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played at the University of Miami for college and had worked as a broadcaster for ESPN.

Driver joins other sports figures who have won the mirrorball trophy, including Olympic gold medal figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi (6), Olympic gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson (8), Olympic old medal speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno (4), racer Helio Castroneves (5) and football players Emmitt Smith (3) and Hines Ward (12). Driver makes seven athletes  and three football players who have won the mirrorball trophy.

Driver, like Hines Ward at the time, is not retired. He was the seventh round pick for the Green Bay Packers in the 1999 NFL Draft. He’s been with the Packers ever since. In 2002, he was their MVP. He was an All-Pro selection  in 2006; he’s a three time Pro Bowl selection for 2002, 2006 and 2007. Last year, he was with the Packers when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25, at Super Bowl XLV.

If DWTS fans love football players, they don’t particularly warm to non-Americans competing on DWTS. After tall, the show has incarnations in many European countries and Helio Castroneves is the only foreigner who has won the mirrorball trophy and he beat another non-American: Brit Mel B.  Second place finisher for this season, Katherine Jenkins is also from Great Britain. Either one could have competed on the U.K. version of the show, “Strictly Come Dancing.”

French man Gilles Marini placed second behind American Johnson during season 8. Other foreign nationals who have made the finals were: Brit Kelly Osbourne (season 9) and Chilean Cristian de la Fuentes (season 6). Both finished third just as William Levy did last night.

Yet from the audience reaction, Levy could be a real winner and become a cross over star. Perhaps we’ll see him soon guest starring in TV series in English as that super sexy Latin lover. Heck, what about a Latin James Bond?

Until the freestyle,  Driver wasn’t the high score in any of the dances and even then he wasn’t alone. He shared the top cha cha cha score of 30 with William Levy. Levy was the top score for the foxtrot (30), samba (30), rumba (27 with Maria Menounos and Katherine Jenkins), salsa (30) and tango (28).  Jenkins and Driver shared the top score for freestyle (30), but Levy earned a 29. Semifinalist Maria Menounos shared the stop score for the paso doble with Jenkins, but was the top score for the Viennese waltz (28) and Argentine tango (30).

Jenkins was also the top scrore for the quickstep (30), jive (30) and waltz (29). Just by performance scores and season average, Jenkins and her partner Mark Ballas should have won, but Jenkins, more than Driver, has built bright future for herself. Broadway and West End musical producers are surely now considering her for a role in some bright and cheery musical. Think “Guys and Dolls,” “Oklahoma!” or something that another DWTS finalist has starred in “The Sound of Music” (Marie Osmond pre-DWTS).

Last night on DWTS, besides reviewing the 10 weeks for high-level performances including live performances by Maria Menounos and Derek Hough of their perfect-score earning Argentine tango, fan favorite Sherri Shepard and Jaleel White in separate new dance numbers, the three remaining couples were required to perform the 24-hour dance challenge. White performed a paso doble to the theme for “Shaft.”  Shepard dance to “It’s Raining Men.”

Gladys Knight returned to sing “The Way We Were.”  Kelly Clarkson appeared and sang “Dark Side” and “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” as Kym Johnson, Tony Dovolani, Anna Trebunskaya and Tristan MacManus danced.

When the finalists performed the 24-hour challenge dances  they all received perfect scores, leaving the leader board positions the same: Jenkins and Ballas only one point ahead of the tied Levy and Burke and Driver and Murgatroyd. Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd danced the cha cha cha (30) to “Beggin’” by Madcon. Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas performed a fun jive (30) to “Splish Splash” by Bobby Darin. William Levy and Cheryl Burke sizzled in their salsa (30) to “Juventud de Presente” by Tito Puente.

So in the end, for season 14, it was up to the audience members who voted and they picked Driver and Murgatroyd. Expect football players to continue to be featured DWTS celebrities, proving that real men do dance and America loves them when they do.

This fall, “Dancing with the Stars” fans will see many familiar faces as season 15 will be the first ever all-stars version. Surely the producers of DWTS will bring back a football player to keep DWTS fans happy–perhaps Emmitt Smith who has remained involved in DWTS as a humorous commentator, but who else? Who are you hoping will make the cut?

Donald Driver

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4: Rock Week

Week 5: Latin Week

  • Argentine Tango
  • 27 (10,8,9)
  • “Sin Rumbo”—Otros Aires

Week 6: Motown Week

Motown Marathon: 7

Week 7: Classical Week

Team Paso Doble

Week 8: Trio Challenge

Week 9: Semi-finals

Week 10: Finale Week

  • Argentine Tango
  • 29 (10,9,10)
  • They“—Jem
  • Freestyle
  • 30 (10,10,10)
  • “I Play Chicken with the Train”—Cowboy Troy
Week 10: Night 2 24-Hour Challenge

About Jana J. Monji

I've written for the Rafu Shimpo, LA Weekly, LA Times, Examiner.com and, more recently, the Pasadena Weekly and RogerEbert.com. I formerly worked for a dot-com more interested in yodeling than its customers.

Posted on May 23, 2012, in Dancing with the Stars Season 14, Donald Driver and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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