Green Bay Packers star receiver Donald Driver, 37, cemented his status as a legend on the dance floor as well as the football field Tuesday night, as he took home the coveted mirror ball trophy on the season finale of ABC's Dancing With the Stars.
Driver, who fought hard all season to land a 10 score from tough judge Len Goodman, finally earned it Monday night during his country-themed freestyle dance. And he and pro partner Peta Murgatroyd repeated the feat Tuesday with his shirt-free cha-cha, earning a perfect 30 from the judges and a total of 89 for the two nights.
"We've had some great footballers on the show over the years," said Goodman. "My feeling is, you are the best we've had."
Driver defeated Welsh opera star Katherine Jenkins, who was runner-up, and Latin actor and model William Levy to become the third football star (after Emmitt Smith and Hines Ward) to win on DWTS. "This has been the most competitive season ever," said Levy's pro partner, Cheryl Burke. "The top six of this show could easily have won any other season."
"I would have to say it was a miracle," Driver said afterward. "We did what we had to do on the floor, and we knew we had to leave it up to the judges and the fans. The fans made the decision, and the fans loved our freestyle last night. I think the freestyle put us on top, and after that, there was no looking back."
Does it compare to winning last year's Super Bowl? "I think it does," he said. "It's truly something special. I reached the greatest milestone in my career, and that was winning the Super Bowl. I just made my partner reach her greatest milestone, and now she's Dancing With the Stars champion."
Jenkins said afterward that she "loved (the experience), do it again in a heartbeat, bigger and better than I ever imagined, something I'll treasure all my life." She called Driver "a gentleman, and we've grown to love him and his family, so you can't not be happy for him. I'm really happy with second; it's more than I imagined."
Driver grew up in Houston; when he was born, his dad was in prison. His family was homeless, meaning he and his mom, his older brother and two sisters struggled to survive, sometimes living in a trailer without light, water or heat. Sports was his way out. "I was a great athlete but a troubled kid," he said on the show.
The turning point was meeting his wife, Betina. She gave him an ultimatum: "drugs or me." He focused on football, and was drafted into the NFL in 1999. The couple has created The Donald Driver Foundation to help the homeless and promote education and health.
Keveney reported from Los Angeles