They called it “the most competitive season” ever on “Dancing with the Stars,” but on Tuesday night, just one pair was good enough for Season 14 mirrorball glory.
Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver is going to have to clear some space in his trophy cabinet, as he and professional partner Peta Murgatroyd were crowned the winners on “Dancing” on Tuesday night, beating out Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas (who came in second), and William Levy and Cheryl Burke (who took third).
The athlete erupted in a fit of joy after learning he’d scooped the top prize, jumping up and down, before falling on the floor and rolling around with pure glee. His partner quickly ran over to him and the two embraced.
Speaking to co-host Tom Bergeron just a moment later, Donald was a man of few words.
“Amazing,” the champ said of the win. “Oh! This is awesome. Thank you so much.”
It was judge Bruno Tonioli, after Donald’s final competition dance on Tuesday — a cha cha he and Peta had just 24 hours to prepare, who may have summed up the reason why the sports star took the top prize.
“You’ve been so smart,” Bruno said. “You really had the strategy of [a] champion. You improved week after week, after week… and you peaked at the right time.”
In fact, Donald knew he had done something special after Monday night’s country-flavored freestyle, the kind of number that won over the judges, and the fans.
“They say, ‘Freestyle wins the competition.’ I worked my butt off to nail the routine. We [nailed] it, the crowd erupts… Millions of fans at home were probably going ‘Oh, yes! Oh, yes!’ But at the end of the day, they say, ‘Freestyle wins.’ Give us the mirrorball,” Donald told Access after the broadcast on Monday night.
And clearly, they did.
Just one judges’ point separated Katherine and Mark — who had actually topped the leaderboard on Tuesday with a full 90 out of 90 (they earned another perfect 30 for their jive) — and the other two couples (who both earned an overall 89 out of 90), so it was the viewers’ votes that were influential in awarding the big prize.
Missing out on the mirrorball didn’t seem to affect Katherine, who graciously thanked just about everyone.
“Thank you so much, Mark. I can’t put it into words how much I’ve loved this,” the singer, who was getting over a romantic breakup when she entered the competition, said. “And thank you to everybody for having me on the show. It’s been an absolute dream.”
As for William, who took third (he and Cheryl also earned 30 for their final number on Tuesday – a salsa), he too was thankful, and proved himself a standup competitor, wishing both Katherine and Donald luck after he was eliminated first.
“It was an amazing experience,” William said, as the cameras panned to his young son, who turned away, heartbroken. “I thank you guys for all you have done for us.”
Beyond the competition, the evening was full of encores of some of the most memorable dances of the season, as the eliminated celebrities once again hit the dance floor with their partners.
Melissa Gilbert recreated her “trio dance” samba with the Chmerkovskiy brothers – her Season 14 partner Maksim, and his younger sibling, Val. After shaking their way across the ballroom, the group threw in a twist as the number ended. Instead of Melissa, once again grabbing their bottoms, they grabbed hers, delighting the audience.
But Melissa wasn’t the only one who indulged in a Chmerkovskiy dance sandwich during the finale.
“The View’s” Sherri Shepherd, who went out in Week 3, with her partner, Val, came back to the ballroom, dancing to “It’s Raining Men,” with Val, Maks and four other pros.
Another highlight of the night was down to Disney star Roshon Fegan and partner Chelsie Hightower, who churned out the freestyle they would have done if they would have made it to the finals. The young man thrilled the packed house by showing off some of the street-style moves he’s known for outside of “DWTS.”
“Dancing with the Stars” returns this fall on ABC.