For the past year or so, I’ve had the biggest spot in my heart for Rashad Jennings.
Jennings, most notably, was a running back in the NFL for eight seasons after being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. In addition to playing for Jacksonville, he also played for the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants, the team he will most likely be remembered for playing with. Jennings officially retired in December 2017, having finished his career with 3,772 rushing yards, 1,468 receiving yards, and 25 career touchdowns.
While his career on the football field is impressive, it’s his career on the dance floor that has forever sealed him a place in my heart. Since he was born and raised not too far from where I grew up (shout out to the 434), I had heard his name before but didn’t fully become aware of him until he joined the season 24 cast of Dancing With the Stars (DWTS).
On DWTS, Jennings had the kind of natural agility and competitor’s mentality that usually takes athletes far in this competition. He had the most notable evolution of any season 24 competitor, and by the end, he became a charismatic and dazzling performer. He made it all the way to the finale with his partner, Emma Slater, and ended up taking home the mirrorball trophy. It’s honestly hard for me to pick a favorite dance of his because I love them all, but if I have to narrow it down, I love his contemporary piece, which I’ve posted in the header, his tango, which I’ve linked here, and his freestyle, which I’ve linked here.
I actually got to see Jennings perform with the rest of the DWTS cast on tour last summer, and he’s just as good, if not better, in person. I also got to meet him and he’s, without a doubt, one of the nicest “industry” people I’ve ever met.
Beyond football and dancing, I’ve learned over the past year of following him on social media that Jennings has one of the biggest hearts. He founded the Rashad Jennings Foundation, which “educates, inspires and encourages youth everywhere through three main initiatives: The Reading Challenge, Mentorship and Camp 180.” The foundation also creates and implements branded programs into schools for individual athletes, throughout all 32 NFL teams, to help other NFL players give back.
In terms of what he’s up to right now, he returns to the ballroom tonight, this time as a judge for the second week of the all-athlete season of DWTS. I hope he returns, in some capacity, every season because the passion this man has for dance exudes from his pores every time he’s on the floor or even just talking about it.
He’s also become an author, and his first book, The If In Life: How To Get Off Life’s Sidelines And Become Your Best Self, comes out tomorrow.
So here’s to you, Rashad Jennings. Thanks for being you!
Be sure to follow Rashad on Instagram and Twitter. You can also purchase his new book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or wherever else books are sold. And Dancing with the Stars airs live Mondays at 8/7 c on ABC.