Thursday, November 16, 2006

Emmitt Smith Crowned as Dancing King


Erin Arnold - Email Staff
November 15, 2006 10:09 PM

Wednesday night's Dancing with the Stars results show would answer the question of what type of dancing America prefers, the technical precision offered by Mario Lopez or Emmitt Smith's entertainment, charm and style.

And for the voters of America, it came down to . . . .

Emmitt's entertainment, style and charm, as the former Dallas Cowboys running back and partner Cheryl Burke were crowned Dancing With The Stars champions in the third season of the ABC hit show.

"It is awesome," Smith said after being named the show's winner, capping off 16 weeks of extensive training and thousands of miles traveled between Dallas and LA.

For Smith's partner, Burke, it was the second year in a row she has claimed the DWTS mirror ball trophy. As judge Len Goodman proclaimed of Burke, "This girl should be an MVP; Most Valued Partner," for her ability to choreograph dances highlighting Smith's natural talent and charm, while bringing out his secret weapon, that irresistible smile.

No matter this competition had nothing to do with football, Smith's championship in a different arena certainly must have caused shirt buttons of many a Cowboys fans to start bursting. And no one might have been prouder of Emmitt's accomplishment than Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who quietly had been tracking his former running back's progress throughout the competition.

"I think I share the sentiments of Cowboys fans all over the country when I say how proud I am for Emmitt and his family on this outstanding accomplishment," Jones said in a statement, taking a break from his concentration on Sunday's game against the undefeated Indianapolis Colts (9-0) at Texas Stadium. "I'd also add that, although we are all thrilled, we should not be surprised. Emmitt Smith is one of the great competitors that I have ever been around. Regardless of the competition, and regardless of the stakes, he always plays to win.

"This victory is just another testament to his desire to be the best, his character, his charisma and the great depth of talent and determination that he brings to a challenge. This is another championship for a true Dallas Cowboys champion."

Smith was able to accomplish what former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice couldn't quite last year, winning this competition that matched a celebrity amateur dancer with a professional partner responsible for choreographing and teaching the dance each week to their apprentice dancers.

This is quite an accomplishment for this football player, who admitted halfway through the competition he'd never had a formal dance training, and that the only dancing he had ever done was confined to the clubs. Emmitt came a long way.

"Emmitt is fiercely competitive and I really believe he wouldn't have gone on the show unless he felt he could have a chance of winning," said former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach on the result show of Smith's decision to enter the contest.

Smith's commitment to training, improvement week-to-week and that ever-present smile showed he definitely thought he had what it takes to win this contest. In fact, finishing with the lowest judges' score one week early in the contest seemed to motivate Smith to work harder and make sure never happened again.

Throughout the training process Smith and Burke developed a close relationship, becoming almost like brother and sister. Burke admitted that when she was initially paired with this year's partner she had to Google the name Emmitt Smith to find out who the heck this former Cowboy actually was.

"My first impression of Emmitt was that he's a big guy, and how am I going to get this guy to ballroom dance?" Burke said of her initial meeting with Smith. "I would have never thought that Emmitt would be able to dance the way that he can dance now. From the beginning, he just wanted to be the best possible dancer he can be."

The two Tauruses, whose birthdays are just a few days (and 15 years) apart, were both bullish in their preparation for each performance, working hard to perfect their dances, while still looking calm, cool and collected.

"I thank you for pushing me even when I did not what to be pushed," Smith said to Burke of her coaching style - a style Smith certainly wasn't used to throughout his football career. "I thank you for being patient even when I was stubborn and I thank you for being you because you being yourself allowed me to be me."

And being himself while letting his personality come through in every dance is truly what separated Smith from the rest of the competition; especially from the runner-up Mario, who, while technically accurate and regularly offering more complex routines, never displayed the charm and grace that endeared Smith to millions of fans around the country.

"He really surprised a lot of people," said Smith's former Cowboys teammate and quarterback Troy Aikman of his dancing skills. "I mean he may win this thing, and if that happens I don't think any of us are going to give him a hard time about it."

Nor should any of Smith's manly football colleagues give him a hard time for dancing his way into another championship because Smith proved that real men can dance, and they can dance well!

And while being named DWTS champion may not rank as highly as winning three Super Bowls, earning a variety of MVP awards, becoming the NFL's all-time rushing leader or eventually landing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it's yet another unique success for Emmitt Smith.

Not bad for a kid from Pensacola, Fla., who first showed up in Dallas wearing that polka dot shorts suit.

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