Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Jacoby Jones’s fellow finalist Kellie Pickler as a previous winner of “American Idol.” Pickler finished sixth in Season 5 of “Idol”; Taylor Hicks was the winner. This version has been corrected.
Last football season, wide receiver Jacoby Jones answered a crucial question for the Baltimore Ravens: Can he drive? Oh yes, downfield, to catch a 70-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Flacco, a Hail Mary grab that was key in sending Ravens on to the Super Bowl. There, in his home town of New Orleans, Jones stunned the country, still reveling post-Beyonce, with a 108-yard, touchdown kickoff return of his own.
Jones could have kicked back during the off season. Instead, he answered another question about his physical prowess: Can he jive?
The answer, obvious to anyone who has watched “Dancing With the Stars” this season, is yes. Oh, yes.
Jacoby Jones can jive. He can Lindy Hop. He can tango. He can rhumba. He can even do the paso doble. Tuesday night, Jones finds out whether he can do all these dances well enough to take home the coveted mirror ball trophy. He has already informed Coach John Harbaugh that if he wins, he expects the gaudy, glittering sphere to be displayed next to the Lombardi Trophy. But he has to win first.
Jones is the lone celebrity guy competing in Monday night’s finale. The winning couple will be announced Tuesday, and the X chromosome competition is fierce. There’s 16-year-old Zendaya Coleman, who plays an aspiring dancer on the Disney Channel. Gymnast Aly Raisman, who claims winning an Olympic gold medal in tumbling doesn’t give her an edge. And country singer Kellie Pickler, a former cheerleader who finished sixth on the fifth season of “American Idol.”
That makes Jones and his partner, professional ballroom dancer Karina Smirnoff, the underdogs. But like his scrappy football team, prone to heroic comebacks and close calls, Jones just might be able to pull it off. And he has some enthusiastic supporters back home who agree.
Fellow wide receiver Torrey Smith, a Stafford High School and University of Maryland graduate, flew to California along with his fiancée to watch Jones rhumba on Prom Night. “I think Jacoby and I might have just completed the first Chest Bump on #DWTS,” Smith tweeted.
First chest bump, maybe, although Jones is hardly the first football player to find success on the show. Retired running back Emmitt Smith won Season 3, and former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward took home the mirror ball in 2011. What’s different about Jones, however, is that he’s so much taller — 6-feet-2 and 220 pounds — and at 28, he’s still in his prime, football-wise.
On the show, judge Bruno Tonioli has called Jones “a stallion at the peak of his power” and praised his recent paso doble as straight out of a Quentin Tarantino film. The effusive Italian is given to hyperbole, but professional dancers are also impressed with what Jones has accomplished in just three months.
“He is just so amazing,” said Alicia Graf Mack, a Columbia native — and huge Ravens fan — who is a star in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. “It’s always surprising to me when people who are so tall and big can move that quickly. That’s why [Jones] is the talent that he is for the Ravens. He has the power, but he can run quickly, and he has fast footwork.”
Graf Mack made a guest appearance on “Dancing With the Stars,” and is all for programs that bring dance to the masses, even if it’s just a minute and a half of choreography that’s mostly for show. In Jones’s case, there’s the added value of seeing a record-holding athlete say on national television that dance rehearsal is harder than football practice.
“To see a man like that move so gracefully, there’s a lot of value there,” Graf Mack said. “He sees dance as competitive and athletic, and not something that takes away from his masculinity, and that’s important.”
Whether that story line resonates with the people who pick up the phone and vote for their favorite dancer Monday night is another question, but Graf Mack is optimistic.
“There’s the appeal of seeing a guy who has never danced before,” she said. “The American public likes to see the underdog rise to the top. As we all know, Jacoby Jones knows how to perform in a clutch situation. I think my Ravens guy is going to come through, definitely.”
Ritzel is a freelance writer.
Season finale (two hours) airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. on ABC.