May 23, 2012 at 11:59 AM ET
Going into Tuesday night’s final results show, Donald Driver had one thing in his favor: Football stars have won "Dancing With the Stars" more than once. However, working against the Green Bay Packer was the fact that he made it all the way to the finals before even earning his first perfect score.
Plus, Driver’s partner, Peta Murgatroyd, was only in her second season of the ballroom bash, while other pro finalists -- veterans Mark Ballas and Cheryl Burke -- each had loyal fan followings and two past victories to their names. But in the end of the close competition, the voting public wanted Driver and Murgatroyd to win, and they got their wish.
British singer Katherine Jenkins came in second. And actor William Levy, much to the endearing disappointment of his young son, came in third. (Levy was, in fact, late in coming to the press line after the show so that he could console the little tyke.)
As for Driver, he confessed to reporters after the show that he and his partner "were a little nervous going into the finals."
"(But) we had an amazing freestyle," he added. "I’ve been watching the show for a long time, and now I know what (past winners) J.R. Martinez and Hines Ward felt. Right now, I’m on cloud nine."
Driver wasn’t sure if the reality of winning had hit Murgatroyd yet. "She’s in shock," he suggested.
"It hasn’t sunk in," Murgatroyd agreed. "(But) I am on cloud nine, too. We’re just going to live it up."
Casting producer Deena Katz promoted Murgatroyd up to the pro team after she started out in the show’s Dance Troupe. Last season, she went home first after her celeb partner, Metta World Peace, was voted off. But Katz continued to see Murgatroyd’s star potential.
"There was something about her," Katz said. "There’s a spark, a star quality. When I put Donald on the show I thought she was the perfect person for him. I knew they’d be great together."
Katz has successfully integrated new dancers including Murgatroyd, Val Chmerkovskiy and Tristan McManus into the main company of pro dancers.
"They’re each getting their own fan bases,” Katz explained to reporters. “It’s hard for celebrities to compete with (stars who have dancers like) Cheryl, who’s been on for 13 seasons, but it’s not impossible. Peta’s in her second season, and she’s a winner."
Driver's fellow finalist, Jenkins, said that she was thrilled over his victory. "You can’t not be happy for him," she said. "When they announced his name he was jumping up with joy!"
Levy was content with his own third place finish. "I feel really good," he told reporters, chuckling, "I’m relieved I don’t have to dance anymore!"
As for his son, who was clearly bummed out that his dad didn’t win, Levy said, "I told him that Daddy gave everything he had to give and in life, you have to give it your all."
Season 15, otherwise known as the all-star season, will kick of in September with a group of veteran "Dancing" stars, but Driver had some advice for any new celebrities who are contemplating doing the show in the future.
"Follow your dreams," he said. "If you think you can do it, then do it!"
Michael Maloney is the author of “The Young and Restless Life of William J. Bell, creator of The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful.”
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