9 Pro Athletes Who Did Surprisingly Well On Dancing With The Stars

athlete contestants on dancing with the stars

The 13th season of Dancing with the Stars got underway this week, and if you’re like me you were rather surprised to hear that Metta World Peace (the Lakers forward formerly known as Ron Artest) was the first celebrity contestant eliminated from the competition. It’s not surprising because I had particular reasons to expect great things from the eccentric baller. It’s just that athletes in general tend to do better than other celebrities. Even though only 20% of DWTS contestants have been athletes, they have won 50% (6 of 12) of the completed competitions.

Now, some of these successes were to be expected. In fact, we would be shocked if champion figure skaters and gymnasts didn’t do well.

But who would have thought boxers, pro wrestlers, and defensive tackles would be so good at ballroom dancing?

So in honor of these tough guys who were brave enough to show how good they are at the Cha Cha on live television, here’s a rundown of the 9 most surprisingly successful athlete contestants from Dancing with the Stars.

9. Jerry Rice – 2nd

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As far as football players go, receivers are about as lean and graceful as they come. So maybe you would expect a guy like Jerry Rice to do okay for himself on DWTS. But did anybody expect the greatest receiver of all time to do this well? Cracking the top 6, sure, but the top 2?

8. Emmitt Smith – 1st

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Unlike receivers, running backs are usually stocky, muscle-bound guys with low centers of gravity. Yes, many of the best, like Emmitt, have a lot of fluidity to their movement, but their strides are still compact and forceful. So you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to excel at an activity that requires them to flail their limbs about like crazy people. But NFL legend Emmitt Smith showed us all when he won the whole competition back in season three.

7. Hines Ward – 1st

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Pittsburgh Steelers star receiver Hines Ward is the first active pro athlete to appear on our list, and the show’s most recent champ. I wonder if his DWTS victory this past spring helped him get over that Super Bowl loss from last February? In any case, with his QB Big Ben Roethlisberger running around getting into trouble all the time, Ward’s fine performance on the show garnered some much-needed positive PR for the NFL and Pittsburgh Steelers.

6. Evander Holyfield – 5th

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One of the most important skills for a successful boxer is fast footwork—a skill you might expect would help a guy pick up dances like the quick step. Still, I wouldn’t have expected a heavyweight to do very well. Welterweights like Floyd Mayweather and Sugar Ray Leonard? Yeah, I can see that. But it was Holyfield who finished a respectable 5th in the first season, while both Mayweather Leonard crashed and burned at #9 in seasons 5 and 12.

5. Jason Taylor – 2nd

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Dolphins linebacker Jason Taylor may be the most built 2nd place finisher in the history of DWTS. In fact, in a group that includes Joey “Fat One” Fatone of N’Sync and Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek, he’s probably the only ripped 2nd place finisher. But I digress.

Obviously, the ideal linebacker is a perfect combinations of muscle and mobility, so, you know, we’re not talking about Refrigerator Perry here. But I was still impressed with this huge dude’s ballroom acumen.

4. Kurt Warner – 5th

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Some great quarterbacks are really dangerous when the defense applies pressure and drives them outside the pocket. Kurt Warner was not one of those quarterbacks. The guy was one of the most brilliant and prolific passers in NFL history, but his mobility was, um, “limited”—which is putting it nicely. In my opinion, simply finishing in the top half of season 11 was probably the second most improbable thing KW has ever done (after going from grocery stock boy, to arena football player, to NFL and Super Bowl MVP, of course).

3. Ty Murray – 4th

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Who is Ty Murray? Only the most accomplished professional rodeo cowboy of all time, as measured by his 9 world championships.

Have you ever seen a rodeo? It’s a miracle this guy can even walk, let alone dance the paso doble.

Of course, the paso doble is a bullfighting dance, and he does have experience handling cattle, so I guess he had a little advantage in this respect.

2. Warren Sapp – 2nd

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As one of the NFL’s greatest pass rushers over the last couple decades, Warren Sapp earned a reputation as one of the most “dangerous” men in football. His used his quick fit and amble girth to pound quarterbacks for a 13 years. Who would have thought a guy who made a living giving dudes concussions could finish second on DWTS? If you just said “I would have,” you’re a liar.

1. Chris Jericho – 7th

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Chris Jericho of the WWE didn’t do that well on DWTS. He only finished 7th, which wasn’t even enough to be in the top fiftieth percentile. But keep in mind, the guy normally makes a living doing this:

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Olympic champion swimmer Natalie Coughlin finished 10th in season 9. So, yeah, I’d say Jericho had the most surprising DWTS performance of any athlete that’s appeared on the show.

Tags: Chris Jericho, Dancing With The Stars, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Kurt Warner, Warren Sapp,