Dancing with the Stars: Where Donald Driver Ranks Among Fellow Athlete Winners

Nick HouserCorrespondent IIMay 23, 2012

Dancing with the Stars: Where Donald Driver Ranks Among Fellow Athlete Winners

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    Not only did Season 14 Dancing with the Stars champion Donald Driver beat out his competition, he danced better than many of the top athletes to ever appear on the show.

    Seven out of 14 Dancing with the Stars winners have been athletes. Another six have earned recognition for placing in the top three.

    In some cases, non-winners have outdanced winners.

    The competition may be fierce in general, but a lot of athletes have been able to transition from the field of play to the ballroom, regardless of where they place.

    Driver is among the best of the best.

    But is he number one? Find out.

No. 13: Laila Ali

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    Season: 4
    Rank: 3rd

    Typically boxers are known for being strong, powerful and intimidating.

    Laila Ali was able to buck the preconceived notions that she wouldn't be girly enough.

    Her moves combined the power from boxing and athletics with elegance. She was fun to watch, but she still moved a bit stiffly.

No. 12: Helio Castroneves

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    Season: 5
    Rank: 1

    Helio Castroneves wasn't the best dancer. He wasn't terrible, but the competition (Marie Osmond) and his partner (Julianne Hough) really put him over.

    Still, he should get loads of credit for winning the Ballroom Trophy coming from the racing world. No one expected him to be anywhere close to as good as he was.

    Exceeding expectations and his energy won fans over.

No. 11: Stacy Keibler

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    Season: 2
    Rank: 3rd

    Former wrestling diva Stacy Keibler effectively nailed the sexy dances and the elegant dances with such a smooth transition.

    She wasn't perfect on the fun, fast dances, but boy, did she look good doing them.

    One of her biggest downfalls was her competition. She placed third behind Jerry Rice and Drew Lachey.

No. 10: Evan Lysacek

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    Season: 10
    Rank: 2nd

    The Olympic figure skater seemed to have an advantage in the ballroom, based on his background.

    Lysacek made the elegant, slow dances seem effortless—it was as if he was on the ice. He began bringing out personality on dances such as the jive, but at other times seemed a bit robotic.

    The only person a figure skater could lose to is a former dancer, and that's what happened.

No. 9: Warren Sapp

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    Season: 7
    Rank: 2nd

    Warren Sapp is another former athlete who might not have been the best technical dancer, but he made up for it with personality.

    He put 100 percent effort into every dance, and it showed. The fun he was having out there was undeniable.

    His partner—Kym Johnson—did a fantastic job of keying in on his strengths and avoiding his weaknesses.

    The best part was seeing such a menacing terror on the football field re-establish himself as a cuddly, fun-loving teddy bear on the dance floor.

No. 8: Jason Taylor

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    Season: 6
    Rank: 2nd

    Jason Taylor was much like Warren Sapp but with better form and less personality. Also, it wasn't as surprising and unexpected.

    He was certainly good; he just lacked excitement.

No. 7: Emmitt Smith

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    Season: 3
    Rank: 1st

    Here's what Emmitt Smith lacked: He was slow and technically pretty good, but he wasn't great.

    Realistically, his partner Cheryl Burke made him look fantastic.

    In Season 3, the competition was still fresh—not many athletes had competed yet—so he had an advantage.

    It was fun to watch him, mostly because he was a little bit older. That and he wasn't someone who could naturally dance. He had to grow, which he did successfully throughout the season.

    The dancing wasn't the best, but the win was deserved.

No. 6: Jerry Rice

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    Season: 2
    Rank: 2nd

    Is there anything Jerry Rice can't succeed at?

    Rice excelled at Dancing with the Stars, but not immediately. Like Emmitt Smith, fans watched as Rice grew into his dancing shoes.

    It's always better when people who aren't naturally great at dancing from week one succeed.

    Rice had just enough personality and tons of talent.

    He was hard to root against.

No. 5: Kristi Yamaguchi

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    Season: 6
    Rank: 1st

    On the ice, fans thought, "Boy can Kristi Yamaguchi move." On the dance floor fans thought, "Boy can Kristi Yamaguchi move."

    She rocked it.

    One week she would be decked out in elegance and perform the most beautiful Viennese Waltz. The next week she'd perform the coolest, fast-paced freestyle of the season.

    Her partner pushed her, and she delivered.

No. 4: Apolo Anton Ohno

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    Season: 4
    Rank: 1st

    If you think Apolo Anton Ohno won by default, think again. He beat a former member of the pop group N*Sync.

    One thing Ohno did extremely well was making the slow dances entertaining. He also had the ability to make them look less technical and robotic.

    But just because they looked less technical didn't mean they were bad. It just looked effortless.

    Of course, he was matched with Julianne Hough, so that helped because they were one of the hottest couples on the show. 

No. 3: Hines Ward

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    Season: 12
    Rank: 1st

    The thing I appreciate about Hines Ward was that he showed how much fun he was having. In fact, it seemed as if he had more fun than any other athlete to ever dance on the show.

    Technicality-wise, Ward matched Donald Driver toe-to-toe.

    The problem—if you want to call it a problem—is that Ward's competition was weak. It seemed like a given for him to win.

    Either way, he was bubbly and fun to watch.

No. 2: Donald Driver

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    Season: 14
    Rank: 1st

    Donald Driver was able to dance with better technique than many of the NFL players before him and with more personality and charisma too.

    Even though he's smaller than the likes of Warren Sapp and Jason Taylor, he appeared to dance with more power.

    His dances were fun and precise. They were strong and passionate.

    Driver beat out some of the hardest competition too—Season 14 could have gone many ways.

    Although he might not have looked like he was having as much fun as Hines Ward did, Driver clearly showed how much work and dedication he was putting into it.

    In the end, he was slightly more entertaining.

No. 1: Shawn Johnson

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    Season: 8
    Rank: 1st

    Shawn Johnson won Olympic gold, beating the world's finest. She won the Ballroom Trophy, dancing better than all of the Season 8 competition.

    She also danced better than any other athlete to appear on the show, period.

    There was nothing she couldn't do.

    First, she came out and relied on her acrobatic, gymnastic skills. The judges bashed her a bit, and she altered her material.

    She was spunky the whole season during dances such as the Cha-Cha-Cha and the Samba. Then she turned around and shocked the world in graceful waltz routines.

    Johnson won by upset in possibly the closest of seasons, beating out Gilles Marini and Melissa Rycroft.

    She was so cute and bubbly. It was definitely well-deserved.