Driver, Navratilova ready to dance

Updated: March 19, 2012, 3:21 PM ET
By Lynn Hoppes | Page 2

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver is trying to temper expectations.

He knows he's the favorite to win this season's "Dancing With the Stars," which begins Monday night on ABC.

The reason is simple: "Packers Nation."

Like "Steelers Nation" helping propel Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward to the title last spring, Driver knows he already has that built-in fan base to call in votes on the 14th season of the elimination dance show.

But the 37-year-old Driver is not overconfident.

"There really is no pressure on me. I'm just going into it to have fun," said Driver, who has played for the Packers for 12 years, winning a Super Bowl and being named to four Pro Bowls. "Of course, I'm going in it to win it. But I want to have respect for the other dancers and just have a good time. I'm energized."

Athletes have done extremely well on the show.

Along with Ward last spring, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi (Season 6), speedskater Apolo Ohno (Season 4), gymnast Shawn Johnson (Season 8) and NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith (Season 3) all have won. And a host of others -- NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (Season 2), NFL veteran Jason Taylor (Season 6), NFL veteran Warren Sapp (Season 7), figure skater Evan Lysacek (Season 10) -- all finished in second place.

Driver, teamed with professional dancer Peta Murgatroyd, isn't the only athlete competing this spring. Tennis great Martina Navratilova, paired with Tony Dovolani, is donning the sequins for a run at the mirrorball trophy.

"Being an athlete translates into being a dancer because the body parts and the movements are the same," said Navratilova, who is considered the best female tennis player of all time. "It's all about controlling your body. I hope I can translate that on the screen."

It should be an interesting season as Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli are back as judges and the dancers have a wide variety of experiences. Actor Jaleel White (TV's Urkel), singing legend Gladys Knight and TV personality Maria Menounos are the biggest names competing. But a lot of the attention will be focused on the athletes.

And one reason Driver is doing the show is focusing attention on his charity, the "Donald Driver Foundation." In 2001, Donald and his wife Betina created the charity, which offers assistance to ill children with hospital bills, provides housing for the homeless and donates to a variety of local charities.

"I want to last a long time to keep the talk about my charity and make this world a better place," said Driver, who has more than 300 charitable appearances. "My partner knows that I'm dedicated and ready to give it my all."

For Navratilova, it's about the American Association of Retired Persons. The 55-year-old Navratilova is health and fitness ambassador for AARP.

"I can't just talk the talk but I have to walk the walk," Navratilova said. "I'm expanding my horizons and doing something out of my comfort zone. And I want people my age to do the same thing."

So both are ready to get dressed up and show the world, starting Monday night.

"I'm a jeans-and-t-shirt type of girl, but I do love getting dressed up. I will love putting glitter in my hair," Navratilova said. "I haven't really done something this before. I really enjoy the transformation."

Same for Driver.

"I hope I can dance pretty well and stay around for a long time," Driver said. "My partner Peta wants to make sure we're not the first couple voted off. I'm going to do everything in my power to make it not happen."

To follow Driver, check him out on Twitter or Facebook. To follow Navratilova, check her out on Twitter or her website.

Lynn Hoppes is a senior writer for

Back to Page 2 »

• Philbrick: Page 2's Greatest Hits, 2000-2012
• Caple: Fond memories of a road warrior
• Snibbe: An illustrated history of Page 2
Philbrick, Gallo: Farewell podcast Listen