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Published May 22 2012

'Dancing' champ Donald Driver says 'once the bright lights go on it's game time'

Donald Driver on 'DWTS': Big winner had 'tough' moments

By Amy Hubbard

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

LOS ANGELES - Donald Driver has waltzed away with the “Dancing With the Stars” mirror ball trophy - or rolled away.

Driver, hearing in Tuesday night's show that he'd beaten Katherine Jenkins, dropped to the floor and rolled several times before jumping back up and being leapt upon by partner Peta Murgatroyd for a dancing hug. Appropriately, their gymnastic celebration was energetic yet graceful.

Over the course of the competition, Driver talked with the Los Angeles Times’ Sports Now blog about his “DWTS” odyssey - about his relationship with Murgatroyd, facing the pressure of the competition and his family's reaction.

It turns out being an NFL star is great preparation for the pressure and physical strain of a ballroom dance competition.

After Week 7, as injuries seemed to be running rampant on the show, Driver said he wasn't worried about getting hurt: “You don't last 13 years in the NFL without learning how to take care of your body,” he said, adding that he hoped his competitors got back to full strength.

Early in the competition, the Green Bay Packers wide receiver maintained that he had no problem with nerves. “I actually haven't been nervous at all,” he said. “It is difficult to learn the dances, don't get me wrong, but once the bright lights go on it's game time.”

But toward the end, as Driver stayed in the game and just kept on winning, the nerves ratcheted up a bit.

“The most nerve-racking part of the whole thing is when you're up on the stage, those lights are on you and Tom does the dramatic pause before telling you if you're safe or in the bottom two. I'm fine before the show and during every other part, but that one moment is definitely tough!”

Tuesday night, as the ultimate decision hovered in the air, Driver and Murgatroyd had their heads bowed together. The tension seemed to hum through them both as the dramatic pause went - dramatically - on and on.