Watching NFL players dance can be awe-inspiring. Or it can be like watching hippos on rollerblades.
Donald Driver, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith were terrific on "Dancing with the Stars." So was Warren Sapp, who turned out to be a 300-pound Michael Jackson without the emotional baggage.
But Lawrence Taylor looked like he was trying to start a balky lawnmower engine when he danced the jive. And Michael Irvin showed all the hip action of a geriatric patient doing the cha-cha.
Now the latest football player to join the show is Jacoby Jones, who wants to see if his famous swivel-hipped end zone celebrations can help him on dancing's biggest stage.
And the Ravens' kick returner and wide receiver says he's not doing it just to get a free flight to L.A. and hang out with the actors, singers and comedians in this year's cast.
"I'm a competitive NFL athlete," he said Thursday. "So when I approach it, I get the eye of the tiger. I get that Ravens eye. I approach it like I do any other competition. I'm looking to win."
Jones got the gig in one of those "only in America" stories boxing promoter Don King always talked about. Except in this case, it was more like "only in America if you returned a kickoff 108 yards and caught a 56-yard touchdown pass in the Super Bowl."
He had already won the NFL Network's "Dancing with the Starters" contest, which judges players on the crazy celebration dances they do in games.
Then he went on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" after the Super Bowl. Kimmel got Jones to reveal that he planned his end zone dances ahead of time and even choreographed them in practice before a panel of his teammates.
Speaking of which, Kimmel asked, any interest in being on "Dancing with the Stars?"
"Do polar bears poo on ice?" Jones answered.
Kimmel and the audience took that to be a yes. By the time Jones got back to his dressing room, the "DWTS" people were barging in the door with a contract.
Now he'll be rehearsing eight hours a day with his partner, Ukrainian dancer Karina Smirnoff, for the show's March 18 debut. And he's hitting the film room hard, too, studying tape of past winners to check out their moves and see what they did right.
Ask if he's nervous and he looks at you as if your hair's on fire.
"No, man, I play in front of 70,000, 80,000 people," he said. "Dancing in a ballroom, that's like going to a wedding, to the reception and getting down."
What a great ride it's been for Jacoby Jones. No one's having more fun with the Ravens' Super Bowl celebrity. His national profile, he says, has been raised "at least 10 times." In Baltimore, he's stopped on the street now wherever he goes.
"Ravens fans want to see the touchdown dances more than anything," he said. "I love it. To see them kids come up to me and imitate the dances? I love it. I film them every time. I say: 'OK, hold on ... now do it.' I have them all on my phone."
But in the next breath, he wants you to know that he's not getting carried away with his new fame.
"I take everything that's happening now in stride," he said. I'm not getting big-headed or nothing like that. I'm just doing everything I want to do. Because last year, you gotta remember, I was one of the most hated people in football. I muffed a punt."
Oh, right. The punt.
How could we forget?
Jones was playing for the Houston Texans at the time, remember? In the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Ravens, he let a punt bounce off his shoulder pads inside Houston's 15-yard line.
Jimmy Smith recovered it at the 2 for the Ravens. And Baltimore went on to score on a 1-yard pass from Joe Flacco to tight end Kris Wilson, killing Houston's early momentum and helping seal a soul-crushing 20-13 loss.
As you can imagine, Texans fans were extremely understanding of Jones' gaffe.
Well, OK, at least they didn't blow up his house.
"I had my jersey burned," he recalled. "People sent in death threats. I got released."
Then, in the ultimate irony, the Ravens came calling. He signed a two-year, $7-million deal last May and fit in right away with his new team. And he played his butt off.
He had a Pro Bowl season as a kick returner. And he'll be remembered forever in this town for the "Miracle at Mile High" or whatever you want to call it, the 70-yard bomb from Joe Flacco that he caught with 31 seconds left in regulation for the game-tying touchdown in the Ravens' 38-35 double-overtime playoff win over Denver.
Now maybe he gets to win over "DWTS" fans the way he won over Ravens fans.
Don King was right. Only in America.
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