Calvin Johnson heads to ‘Dancing with the Stars’ finals

The former Lions wide receiver tangoed to The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ in the semifinals

Stephanie Steinberg
The Detroit News

Former Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson Jr. tangoed his way to the “Dancing with the Stars” finals on the ABC reality television show Monday night.

Johnson and professional dancer Lindsay Arnold are among four remaining couples who will compete for the Mirror Ball Trophy in the show’s finals next week.

Johnson and professional dancer Lindsay Arnold are among four remaining couples who will compete for the Mirror Ball Trophy in the show’s finals next week. The three other celebrities left in the the competition include singer Jana Kramer of Rochester Hills, Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez and IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe.

On Monday night, Johnson tangoed to “Seven Nation Army” by the Detroit-based band The White Stripes. The 2004 Grammy award winner for best rock song is often played as pump-up music in football stadiums, but Johnson — dressed in a red sequined vest — turned it into a sexy track on the dance floor. Yet a small stumble toward the end earned him a 26 out of 30 from the three judges.

“Your guys’ chemistry was more on fire tonight than I’ve ever seen it,” said judge Julianne Hough. “Usually it’s sort of like a brother-sister friendship thing, and I saw some passion, but I’m so upset because it was so great throughout the whole thing, and then there was a little bit of a mess up, but you kept it going.”

Backstage, Johnson told host Erin Andrews that he “just got a step ahead of myself” — to which Andrews reassured him not to worry, and called out to his Lions fan base for votes: “Come on, Detroit, help the guy out!”

In a video segment, Johnson — who retired from the NFL in March — discussed how playing in the “NFL was an honor, second to none, but it definitely takes a toll on your body.”

“At the end of the day, it’s about quality of life,” he added. “It’s not worth it if you can’t bend over and pick up your son, or you’ve got jacked up fingers where you can’t hold your baby.”

Johnson told ABC News Monday that he didn’t think he’d be competing for a spot in the finals when the show began 10 weeks ago.

“I never knew where it would take me,” he said. “I just put my head down and tried to work my butt off each week and see where I landed.”

Wearing matching pink and white outfits, country singer and actress Jana Kramer and partner Gleb Savchenko danced a quickstep to “Go Mama” by Wayne Beckford.

Judge Carrie Ann Inaba pointed out they had a “little bit of a rough start” getting in sync.

“But everything after that was so beautiful,” she said. “You’ve really come the furthest out of all our semifinalists. The growth you’ve showed us in your dancing — you’re so much stronger, you’re so much more open.”

The performance earned a score of 29.

In a video segment, Kramer talked about growing up in Michigan and singing with her dad as he rehearsed in the basement with his bands.

“I always wanted to be on stage,” she said. “I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be an entertainer.”

Kramer’s mom, Nora, also appeared on the video, singing her daughter’s praises.

“It’s a wonderful thing to watch as a parent to see your child follow their heart and live out their dream,” she said. “I’m just so proud of her.”

For the second half of the show, each couple had a second professional dancer join them for a Trio Dance. Every trio wowed the judges, as they all earned a perfect 30 out of 30. (The scores from both routines were then combined for a final score.)

Witney Carson danced a salsa with Johnson and Arnold to “Limbo” by Daddy Yankee. At one point during the energetic routine, Johnson lifted both women to spin in the air. He also had the audience cheering when he ripped off his lime green shirt to show off his 16-pack.

“That was one spicy salsa. You guys are liked the guacamole or the limes,” Hough said, referring to the pro dancers.

“That was pure fun,” she added, telling Johnson, “You are the epitome of what this competition is about.”

Alan Bersten joined Kramer and Savchenko for a paso doble to “Kill of the Night” by Gin Wigmore. In a black sequin dress, Kramer took to the dance floor, channeling an evil queen with two prisoners (the pro dancers) in shirts baring their chests.

“This was a fire we had not seen yet,” Hough said. “I know this was about being the queen of the night, but girl, you are the queen of the ballroom.”

Judge Bruno Tonioli summed up the dance in one metaphor: “She was like a she-devil emerging from an enchanted forest.”

In the last minutes of the episode, the judges announced that actress Terra Jole was eliminated, after receiving the lowest scores from the judges and viewers last week. Jole, the first little person to dance on the show, thanked her partner Sasha Farber for getting her to this point.

“Sasha has been extremely supportive throughout this entire process,” she said, “and honestly, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Sasha.”

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Twitter: @Steph_Steinberg