A few years ago, if I told you that Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, Steelers’ star receiver Antonio Brown and football legend Doug Flutie were going to be on a TV show together, you may have thought it would be some type of football documentary. Maybe something like an ESPN Sports Center analysis of the Super Bowl? A feature for NFL films? A 30 for 30 segments?
Nope. As nearly everyone with access to a TV knows now, these football stars are featured on a dance show! That’s right, a dance show: Dancing with the Stars. Who would’ve thought that a partnership between the NFL and Dancing with the Stars would flourish?
It so happens that the NFL off-season aligns nicely with the filming for Dancing With the Stars, but the connection of these two unlikely entertainment entities goes beyond that.
A match made on the dance floor
Dancing with the Stars is a dance competition show aired on ABC in the U.S. and on CTV/CTV Two in Canada. Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews are the current hosts and co-host respectively. Tom Bergeron won the 2012 Emmy Awards for his role as host in the show. The competition show is now in its 23rd season and is hosting three big NFL stars this year – Von Miller, Antonio Brown and ex-NFLer Doug Flutie.
Dancing with the Stars pairs a celebrity with a professional dancer, and the past list of celebrities included Olympic and professional athletes, actors, models, singers, journalists, politicians, reality TV stars, magicians and entrepreneurs among others. Professional sports players have especially had a great record on the show and there have been many winners.
Football Players as Dancers
Having a few football players on a high profile show keeps the NFL in the news during a brief time of the year when the football league isn’t guaranteed big headlines. It shows a softer side of NFL players. It’s good to hear about other aspects of players beyond their achievements on the field. And, for it’s all positive. In fact, if Dancing with the Stars wasn’t around, the NFL would have to invent something like it. The NFL and Dancing with the Stars appear to be a match made in heaven.
The show Dancing with the Stars benefits from the NFL partnership to a great degree as well. Each player brings in their own set of fans from their home state and beyond. Plus, sports fans as a whole are curious to find out more about each NFL player. With their helmets off, you learn more about the player as a person. While you may have never guessed seeing a current NFL star dance the Rumba with a beautiful dancer would be interesting, you find out that it is.
Host Tom Bergeron
The show’s Co-host Tom Bergeron is a pro’s pro who always seems to have the right words to say. With a live show, that’s a tough thing to pull off. He does. And, Co-Host Erin Andrews, who used to be a sideline reporter at football games seems to be very much in her element interviewing the football stars, as well as the other stars and dancers. Seeing a personal side to the stars, and finding out a bit more each week, enables viewers to feel like they know the players. Viewers have another reason to tune into NFL games beyond the love of the sport and the results of their fantasy football players. They might tune in because they feel like they know the players a bit more.
Background & popularity of the TV show
Dancing with the Stars started in 2005 and it has been a highly successful decade-long journey for the show. What makes it unique is that it has been drawing viewers from all over the place – even those who don’t like the professional background of the participant celebrity. Even non-dancers and people who don’t love the specific sport watch the show with unmatched enthusiasm.
Dancing with the Stars has been able to capture the attention of a multidimensional audience due to its unique formula. It pairs widely cross-sectional competition along with life lessons, surprises, and bling. Their list of participants also includes celebrities have don’t have much dancing talent. It covers the entire family’s favorites, something that is rarely seen on prime time.
History Of Professional Sports Players Success
Professional sports players, not just NFL players, have had a significant win record on the seasons of Dancing with the Stars. Athletes have won 8 of the seasons, with NFL players Emmitt Smith, Donald Driver and Hines Ward being the 3 winners. The list of sports players who have won at the show is as follows:
- Olympic Short Track Speed Skater Apolo Ono in Season 4
- NFL Hall of Fame player Emmitt Smith in Season 3
- Olympic Gymnast Shawn Johnson in Season 8
- Olympic Figure Skater Kristi Yamaguchi in Season 6
- NFL Player Hines Ward in Season 12
- NFL Player Donald Driver in Season 14
- Olympic Ice Dancer Meryl Davis in Season 18
Profiles Of Current NFL Player Participants
Current NFL stars Von Miller and Antonio Brown, and ex-NFL Quarterback Doug Flutie is on the current season of Dancing with the Stars.
Vonnie B’Vsean Miller Jr. is the Denver Broncos outside linebacker who played college football at Texas A&M. At A&M he won the Butkus Award for being the most outstanding college linebacker in the U.S. Miller also earned the All-American honors. Broncos drafted him second overall during the 2011 NFL Draft. The 4-time Pro Bowl selection was the Super Bowl MVP at the end of the 2015 NFL season. The Broncos went on to beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. He was selected for the current season of Dancing with the Stars after his victory at the Super Bowl.
Antonio Brown is another NFL star. The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him as their wide receiver and punt returner in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL Draft. While playing for the Central Michigan University, The Sporting News named him the first-team All-American in 2008-09 (as a punt returner). During his junior year, he played a crucial role in leading Central Michigan Chippewas to their 2nd Mid-American Conference title in 3 years.
Douglas Richard Flutie is a former quarterback in the NFL, United States Football League, and Canadian Football League. He won the 1984 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award and the Heisman Trophy at Boston College. Flutie’s “Hail Mary” touchdown pass in a 1984 game against Miami is remembered as college football’s one of the greatest moments. It is in fact, also considered a big moment in American sports history.
He was only the 285th pick round 11 of the 1985 NFL Draft by the LA Rams. When he won the Heisman Award, he was the lowest drafted player to win the award. He played with the New Jersey Generals (USFL), Chicago Bears, the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers in the NFL, BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders, and Toronto Argonauts in the CFL through his career.
Why Sports Stars Dance So Well?
It is no longer a secret that sports stars have been good performers on Dancing with the Stars. One of the main reasons is probably that they are in great shape. They are also more disciplined due to years of tough training. They are also experienced in performing under pressure and against the competition. It would be almost like saying their successes were already expected. Besides, wouldn’t it be a shock if champion gymnasts, athletes, and figure skaters were not to do well. Fan following is also a significant factor, which seems to encourage sports players to up their performance levels on the dancing floor.
Besides athletic abilities, the practice-oriented approach to the show also makes it an ideal platform for sports players. Mostly, they already have the background to inspire and encourage them to train better and increase their chances of success at dancing. It is worth mentioning that the highest-scoring celebrities on the show have been sports players. Olympic Ice Dancer Meryl Davis and her professional partner hold the record for the highest average score at 28.40. Figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and her partner hold the second-position record. Olympic artistic gymnast Shawn Johnson holds the 6th highest score.
Advantages to NFL Players
NFL players are mostly muscular athletes with low centers of gravity. Most of them, including the likes of former Dallas Cowboys Emmitt Smith and former Green Bay Packers Donald Driver, have amazing fluidity in their movement. They combine that with forceful and compact strides. The perfect athletes are made up of the ideal combination of mobility and muscle, which gives them an edge over non-sport celebrities.
The concept of practicing intensely to improve is part of their make-up. Most of the NFL players and former athletes are very competitive by nature. That helps in the competitive environment of DWTS.
Who will win Dancing with the Stars in 2016?
With current and former NFL players making a strong contribution in the current season, Dancing with the Stars and the NFL will continue to grow their partnership. Although it’s too early to count any of the NFLers out for the DWTS championship, this year’s group has their work cut out for them. Look for Doug Flutie to leave first and followed closely out the exit door by Von Miller. Antonio Brown seems to have the best shot of the NFLers, but his competitors look stronger at this point. Can Brown outrun the competition? We’ll see. Right now, he needs to gain a lot of ground.
The NFL and Dancing with the Stars: Outlook
No matter how the NFL players do this year, it’s a lock that the partnership between the NFL and Dancing with the Stars will continue. It has been a win-win partnership for both entities, and it appears to just be growing in strength. From one NFL player as part of the cast in the early seasons to this year have 3 players perform.
My brother-in-law had never watched a DWTS show until one of his beloved Green Bay Packers, Donald Driver, was part of the cast. Now, he’s a fan. And, I’d imagine some dance fans may take a closer look at football games that involved the Bronco’s Von Miller and the Steelers Antonio Brown.
As with two great dance partners, the NFL and Dancing with the Stars move well together, and the overall effect is entertaining. They’ll be on each others’ dance cards for a long time.
— Andy Atticus
Andy is a sportswriter living in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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