Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez won the Mirror Ball Trophy, and IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe came in second
This may be one of the toughest losses of Calvin Johnson’s career.
After 11 weeks working his feet with salsa, quickstep and foxtrot routines, the former Detroit Lions wide receiver placed third in the 23rd season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez won the Mirror Ball Trophy, and IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe came in second. This was the first time in 23 seasons that all three finalists were athletes.
“I just want to thank everyone for the support and riding along this crazy roller coaster of my life, and my goal is to just inspire others as I go on with my journey,” said Hernandez, 16, who joined the cast shortly after winning gold and silver medals at the summer games in Rio.
Hernandez was crowned the top dancer based on viewer votes and the judges’ combined scores from Monday and Tuesday night.
During the 2-hour finale, the three couples performed a new dance routine that they learned in the past 24 hours. The holiday themed-show at The Grove in Los Angeles also included special performances by season 23 contestants.
Vanilla Ice and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry teamed up for a 90s throwback dance to Vanilla’s “Ice Ice Baby.” Grammy award winner Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds sang “Winter Wonderland” on a white stage surrounded by Christmas trees that truly resembled a winter wonderland. Country singer and Rochester Hills native Jana Kramer, who was eliminated Monday night, wrapped up the show with her new single “Circles.”
Each finalist also gave an encore performance of their favorite number of the season. Johnson and pro partner Lindsay Arnold chose their sexy Argentine tango to The Eagles “Hotel California.” Hinchcliffe and pro partner Sharna Burgess brought back their Cirque du Soleil-themed quickstep, and Hernandez and pro partner Val Chmerkovskiy sambad with Val’s brother Maksim.
For the “24-hour fusion” routine, all couples earned a perfect 40 out of 40 from the judges.
In a video segment before his jive and quickstep to Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” Johnson pointed out how much his life has changed since just a year ago.
“This time last year I was playing in the NFL on Thanksgiving,” he said.
Now here he was on stage, trading his his silver and blue jersey for a sparkling blue suit — and taking orders from a different coach.
“Calvin has been like a big brother to me this season,” Arnold said in the video. “We tease each other, we joke around, but at the end of the day, we’ve become really good friends.”
Retiring from the NFL in March after nine seasons with the Detroit Lions, Johnson, 31, surprised a lot of people (former teammates included) when he joined the 12 other celebrity contestants on the show. Lions coach Jim Caldwell was optimistic though and even predicted Johnson’s success in August before the season started.
“I think he’ll be able to hold his own. He’s been very good at everything else he’s done,” he told The Detroit News at the time. “I think he might surprise everybody.”
Caldwell may be a good luck charm. When he was the Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator in 2013, receiver Jacoby Jones starred in season 16 and finished third
Other NFL stars have performed well on the show, including former Green Bay Packer Donald Driver winning the Mirror Ball Trophy in season 14 and former wide receiver Jerry Rice — who had a cameo during Johnson’s Motown-themed jazz routine — finished second in Season 2.
After their dance Tuesday, judge Julianne Hough praised the duo for the “perfect fusion.”
“You had your kicks and your flips. You were quick stepping around that floor,” she said, adding that it’s been a joy to watch Johnson this season. “There’s not enough rhinestones in this world, or on that jacket, that shine as bright as you do.”
“You just have this X factor,” added judge Carrie Ann Inaba. “...You just make the world a better place when you dance.”
Hinchcliffe and Burgess paired a foxtrot and Viennese waltz for their dramatic fusion that captured their friendship that formed over the past few months.
“When you dance, you transport all of us into this world where all men can lead with beautiful and incredible technique and take us off into a fairytale,” Inaba said.
Hernandez’s foxtrot and Argentine tango fusion routine ended the season on a high step.
“It was power, technical, flawless but above all you’ve grown into a great performer,” said judge Bruno Tonioli.
Judge Len Goodman summarized it best: “A fabulous dance to close a fabulous season.”
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