Football star Donald Driver crushed the competition with his cowboy-themed “Dancing with the Stars” freestyle, telling reporters he was “on cloud nine” after winning Season 14 Tuesday night.
Donald, who is the third gridiron star to win the mirror ball trophy after Emmitt Smith and Hines Ward, said the experience was “more than what I expected. I’ve been watching the show for a long time and now I know exactly what J.R. [Martinez] felt last year, what Hines felt, what Emmitt felt. That is truly something special.”
When asked how it compared to winning the Super Bowl, Donald said, “I think it’s the same. It took me 13 years to win the Super Bowl. I’m just glad it took me one season to win the mirror ball.”
WATCH DONALD’S REACTION WHEN HIS NAME IS ANNOUNCED
All season, the pro athlete made no secret of the fact that he wanted to win. But on the final night, Donald admitted he and partner Peta Murgatroyd got butterflies. “One thing we did know was America was going to pull for us,” Donald confided. “They said the freestyle [always] wins it and we had an amazing freestyle. We found out we had the encore [dance]. We felt that–but then when the lights come on, you get a little bit nervous. We both were nervous until the final [moment]. She said she heard ‘D-D-‘ — Nobody else’s name is spelled with a D! She went nuts.”
Peta confirmed, “I have this constant smile on my face. It’s amazing.”
Donald said his wife Betina has been his rock during the entire show. “I’ve been thinking about how to thank her and my kids. She said she wanted to take a trip so we’re going to take a Disney cruise as a family. We’re going to spend time together. That’s what you have to do because my family’s been behind me the whole time.”
See the Third Place Couple Learn Their Fate:
The Super Bowl champ told the media he’d recommend the “DWTS” journey to any celebrity. “If you think you can do it, do it. It’s a great opportunity.”
Donald, 37, will be returning to his pro football job and said dance training might even make him a better athlete! “Peta has made me more flexible. I’m able to do things I wasn’t able to do two or three years ago, from the jumping ability to being able to stretch. She’s made me comfortable. I feel like I’m a twentysome-year-old going back to play football.”
Donald and Peta Show Off the Mirror Ball on “Jimmy Kimmel”:
Donald and his partner were traveling to New York to appear on “Good Morning America” and Peta said they would have fun on the plane with “lots of drinks. We’re just going to live it up.”
While Donald and Peta got ready to party, second place finishers Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas took their loss with good grace. “Honestly, there’s no part of me right now that’s sad or disappointed,” the beautiful Welsh singer said. “I didn’t imagine we’d get to the final; I didn’t imagine we’d be second place in such a high standard of competition. I’m thrilled that we made it this far.”
Katherine laughed that after their final dance on Tuesday night, a little girl backstage dissed their bright orange costumes. “This little girl comes up and says, ‘mummy, are they supposed to be goldfish?’ That’s not what we were going for!”
Last Dance: Watch Donald and Peta Cha Cha Their Way to the Win:
She couldn’t say enough nice things backstage about the winner: “Donald is such a gentleman. We got to really know his family and you can’t not be happy for him. When they announced his name, I started laughing because he was jumping around with joy and that’s so nice to see.”
After losing weight on the show, Katherine confided, “I want to put a little weight on.” She next plans to sing for the Queen at her Jubilee and the summer Olympics in London.
William Levy, who finished third, said, “This was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
His son Christopher burst into tears in the audience after witnessing William lose the mirror ball. “He’s so great. When you see his reaction that way, you don’t expect it,” the actor smiled. “I told him that Daddy gave everything he had to give and we’re winners because we gave it all. Being a dad is such a great experience. That’s the best trophy in the world.”
His partner Cheryl Burke said, “I feel fine. This was the most competitive season yet and I feel like we did all we could do. We had such a blast.”
The telenovela hunk was cryptic about his future plans, saying, “Probably in a week or two we’re going have good news.”
The good news for “DWTS” fans is that next season (number 15) will be a stunner, with notable previous competitors coming back for the All-Stars edition. See you in September!