NEW YORK (Reuters) - Green Bay Packers football star Donald Driver won the 14th season of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ on Tuesday, Cha-cha-cha-ing to victory on the strength of perfect scores from the show’s judges and voting support from fervid fans.
An ecstatic Driver leapt for joy, then rolled around on the dance floor seemingly unable to contain himself.
Dancing with professional partner Peta Murgatroyd, Driver was cited by the judges for his intensity and determination in the competition, as well as his willingness to listen and learn from them during the course of the TV ballroom dance competition.
Driver, 37, triumphed over finalists Telenovela star William Levy who placed third and runner-up, classical music singer Katherine Jenkins, a season-long standout.
“Amazing, this is awesome!” Driver exclaimed before accepting the coveted mirror ball trophy, which he raised aloft, whooping and screaming.
Driver’s cliffhanger win followed a season that host Tom Bergeron on Monday called the hit series’ most competitive ever, with a razor-thin single point margin out of a possible 60 separating the couples after Monday’s dances brought several perfect-30 scores.
On Tuesday all three couples got perfect 30s for their one last dance. The two nights’ numbers were weighted equally with fan votes to determine the winner.
For Levi the final dance was a Salsa, leading judges to laud his star quality, while Jenkins did the Jive.
Driver, wearing an oversized, sleeveless deep-pink shirt - which he doffed seconds into his final dance - and matching pants, turned out his spectacular Cha-cha-cha.
Ironically that was the same dance that gave the wide receiver his lowest score of the competition, a 21, earlier in the season. But he came on strong for the finals, with 30s for that as well as his Freestyle on Monday.
The competition had seemed like it was Jenkins’ to lose, after she dominated many weeks throughout the 14th season, winning strong fan support and going into Tuesday’s final dance with a perfect 60 from the judges.
Goodman called her “one of the most technically advanced dancers” the show had ever seen, and “the complete package.”
“It’s been an absolute dream,” she said afterward, offering her congratulations to Driver and saying “Well done Donald, we love you.”
All 12 competitors from the season, all the way back to tennis star Martina Navratilova, who was the first eliminated, returned to dance on the live two-hour finale.
Other dancers included soap star Jack Wagner, singer Gladys Knight, talk show host Sherri Shepherd, actress Melissa Gilbert and musician Gavin DeGraw, as well as Disney Channel star Roshon Fegen, actor Jaleel White and TV host and actress Maria Menounos.
Highlights of the finale included musical performances by “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson, and Gladys Knight.
“Dancing With the Stars” has been among the top-rated U.S. TV shows of this season and is ABC’s most-watched program, drawing 18 million viewers on average this season.
But ratings for the seven-year-old program have slipped in recent seasons, and an All-Star edition featuring past contestant favorites has been ordered for fall.
Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte