Confession: I have seen every single season of Dancing with the Stars (DWTS), and I can name all of the DWTS champions, in order, from memory. So to say that I am a fan of the show is a massive understatement. I’m also a huge sports fan, specifically basketball, and represent my Washington, D.C. teams whenever I get the chance.
One of the things that I love about DWTS is that it includes athletes in its lineup of contestants each season. Athletes tend to do well on the show as they have elite body control, tight focus, and a level of comfort competing in the spotlight. They have dedicated their entire lives to getting in prime physical condition so that they can maximize their performance when it counts. This has led athletes, over the course of the show’s history, to victory eight out of 22 seasons. Athletes have also finished second six other times. I also love that the show highlights dancing as a sport by showing the level of training needed to compete as a dancer professionally.
In the 23rd season of the show, we will see Olympians Ryan Lochte and Laurie Hernandez, along with newly-retired All-Pro NFL wide receiver Calvin Johnson compete for the mirror ball trophy. Therefore, in honor of the show’s season premiere on Monday, September 12 at 8 pm EST on ABC, I thought I would share with all of you TWNU readers my Top 5 Favorite Athletes to Compete on DWTS.
5. Von Miller & Antonio Brown (NFL Players; Season 22, Tied for 8th and 5th places)
Von Miller and Antonio Brown tie for fifth place on my list as I could not pick between the two. Both NFL players competed on the most recent season and immediately won viewers, including myself, over with their fun, distinct personalities and ambition to learn their routines. Neither of them were the best dancers of their season, but in my opinion, they were two of the most memorable contestants in recent seasons.
Von – Week 1, Foxtrot to “My House” by Flo Rida
Antonio – Week 3, Foxtrot to “7 Years” by Lukas Graham
4. Jacoby Jones (NFL Player; Season 16, 3rd place)
One of the reasons that I loved Jacoby Jones is his personality. He was able to entertain the audience every week, whether in his video packages or out on the floor. It took him a little while to find his groove but he quickly started to excel at dancing, even earning the top score in two different weeks of the competition.
Week 3, Rumba to “Stay” by Rihanna ft. Mikky Ekko
3. Aly Raisman (Gymnast; Season 16, 4th place)
Aly Raisman is a strong woman, and she was able to use her strength to her advantage for most of the competition. One thing that continued to surprise me about her is that she was able to display emotions in each routine, which combined with her athleticism, made for stunning pieces week after week. It was clear that she mastered the dance floor for most of the competition as she had the highest score during three different weeks. Even though she got out-danced in the finale by contestants, she remains one of my favorite contestants.
Week 4, Contemporary to “Titanium” by David Guetta ft. Sita Furler
2. Emmitt Smith (NFL Player; Season 3, 1st place; Season 15, 4th place)
I still remember 11-year-old me watching Emmitt Smith’s Cha Cha Cha from Week 9 of Season 3 on repeat and being completely fascinated with him every time. He had the perfect balance of personality and technical skills. For most of his initial season, he kept pace with front-runner Mario Lopez and found momentum in the final two weeks to catapult him to the win. He followed it up with a strong showing in the All-Star season in which he finished in 4th place.
Season 3 – Week 9, Cha Cha Cha to “Dance to the Music” by Sly & the Family Stone
Season 15 – Week 5, Samba to “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow
1. Shawn Johnson (Gymnast; Season 8, 1st place; Season 15, 2nd place)
Picking my absolute favorite athlete to compete on DWTS was an easy choice. I could write a whole post on why Shawn Johnson is one of my favorite competitors on this show. She might be one of the most technically perfect dancers that DWTS has ever seen. She used her gymnast moves to her advantage and was a joy to watch. She won her initial season, making her the youngest winner in the show’s history at age 17. She came back for the All-Star season and made it back to the finale, finishing in second place.
Season 8 – Week 7, to “P.Y.T.” by Michael Jackson
Season 15 – Week 3, Quickstep to “Hey Pachuco” by Royal Crown Revue
Honorable Mentions: Laila Ali, Nastia Lukin, Helio Castroneves, Donald Driver, Meryl Davis