In case you haven't noticed, there has been at least one athlete on every season of Dancing With the Stars. For Season 12 we have three professional athletes — boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, football player Hines Ward and wrestler Chris Jericho — as well as college basketball player Romeo, who had to duck out of DWTS Season 2 because of a b-ball injury.
Athletes have a reputation for doing very well on DWTS, but that’s just because we tend to forget the ones who flopped. (Like Evander Holyfield.) Let’s review the success rate of athletes, season by season.
Athlete: Boxer Evander Holyfield
Ranking: Second eliminated
Verdict: Granted there were only six people competing on Season 1, but he didn't exactly run away with a victory. He didn't even come close to the finale, which was a battle between actor John O'Hurley and actress Kelly Monaco.
Athletes: Wrestler Stacy Keibler and NFL wide receiver Jerry Rice
Rankings: Both made the finals — Jerry was the runner-up, Stacy placed third
Verdict: Although they were both whupped by singer Drew Lachey, they did very well. Jerry got as far as he did mostly for his personality and fun-loving routines. Stacy was arguably the better dancer.
Athlete: NFL running back Emmitt Smith
Ranking: He won
Verdict: He was the only athlete and he won his season so, yeah, he did pretty well! He beat Mario Lopez, who might’ve been the better dancer, but once again personality played a factor. Plus, Mario was good off the bat and Emmitt improved over time. And Emmitt — like Drew in the previous season — had an ace pro partner in Cheryl Burke, a.k.a. the original back-to-back winner.
Athletes: Basketball player Clyde Drexler, boxer Laila Ali, and speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno
Rankings: Clyde was eliminated fourth. Laila and Apolo made it to the finals — Apolo won and Laila made it to third place
Verdict: After Emmitt won, DWTS amped up the number of athletes from various disciplines. Apolo also launched the Olympians-tend-to-REALLY-do-well trend.
Athlete: Boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Ranking: Floyd was eliminated fourth
Verdict: Well, this season is a miss for the athletes. Bouncy Indy 500 racer Hélio Castroneves can't really be considered an athlete, but he acted like one with bubbly partner Julianne Hough, who became the second DWTS pro two-timer by winning with Apolo and then Helio.
Athletes: Tennis player Monica Seles, NFL player Jason Taylor, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi
Rankings: Monica was eliminated second. Both Jason and Kristi made the finals — Kristi won and Jason was the runner-up
Verdict: Monica just never got loose enough and she wasn't entertaining to watch. Jason and Edyta Sliwinska turned out to be one of the sexiest pairs the show has ever had. But Olympian Kristi was a ringer from day one. Everyone keeps insisting that figure skating isn't dancing on ice ... until the recent Skating With the Stars when they finally admitted it is pretty much exactly that.
Athletes: Volleyball player Misty May-Treanor, sprinter Maurice Greene, NFL player Warren Sapp
Rankings: Misty was the fourth to leave the show, withdrawing due to an injury. Maurice was eliminated eighth. Warren ended up the runner-up, losing to current DWTS co-host, Brooke Burke.
Verdict: Misty and Maurice threw cold water on the idea of Olympians always making the finals. Warren was a big ole teddy bear on the dance floor and his energy with Kym Johnson took him to the finals.
Athletes: NFL player Lawrence Taylor, rodeo champion Ty Murray and gymnast Shawn Johnson
Rankings: Lawrence was eliminated seventh. Ty was eliminated 10th, almost making the finals. Shawn won
Verdict: Is it a stretch to call a cowboy an athlete? Either way, he wasn't that great a dancer. He was just adorable, especially when dancing with cutie Chelsie Hightower. Lawrence didn't make much of an impression on the dance floor, exiting mid-season. Shawn was another ringer. Once again Mark got an Olympic perfectionist already primed to do his ultra-fast, technique-heavy routines.
Athletes: UFC champion Chuck Liddell, swimmer Natalie Coughlin, snowboarder Louie Vito, NFL player Michael Irvin
Rankings: Chuck was eliminated fifth, Natalie was eliminated sixth, Louie was dumped eighth, Michael went ninth
Verdict: So many athletes — and they all got dumped mid-season! None of them made a huge mark on the competition this season, which went to three singer/performers — Donny Osmond, Mya, and Kelly Osbourne. (Yes, Kelly is credited as a reality TV star and singer.)
Athletes: NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco and figure skater Evan Lysacek
Rankings: Chad was eliminated eighth, just missing the finals. Evan was the runner-up
Verdict: Chad had the high energy and personality of most of the DWTS football players. Evan had the focus and perfect technique (but occasionally limited emotional range) of most of the DWTS Olympians.
Athletes: Basketball player Rick Fox and NFL quarterback Kurt Warner
Rankings: Rick was eliminated seventh and Kurt was right behind at eighth
Verdict: They were both robbed, considering Bristol Palin made it to third place. Both also had trouble making their big frames look graceful on the dance floor. But they were fan favorites for just trying. Fans tend to give football and basketball players more leeway than, say, singers and other performers.