Each week on Dancing With the Stars has a theme, and one of the most popular every season is the “Most Memorable Year” week, in which the contestants recall a year of their lives that was particularly important to them personally, professionally, or otherwise.

If you’re familiar with any or several of the contestants on the show, the choices for most memorable year won’t often be a surprise. But they can often lead to some very touching moments that demonstrate how compelling the show can be, even if you’re ready to dismiss it as a celebrity ballroom dance competition.

Here’s how the four athletes competing in season 22 of DTWS did on Monday night.

Doug Flutie: Waltz


Flutie has been through a very trying four months, having lost both of his parents on the same day last November. Those who thought the former quarterback might opt to reminisce about some football glory shouldn’t have been surprised to see that his parents were heavily on his mind. Flutie dedicated his waltz to his parents, dancing to “The Rainbow Connection” (performed by Andra Day).

It was a heavily emotional performance; everyone in attendance was clearly affected (even feisty partner Karina Smirnoff) and co-host Erin Andrews almost lost her composure. The judges giving constructive criticism felt harsh under the circumstances. But this is the sort of personal performance that can resonate with viewers (and voters), along with the judges. And if Flutie continues to improve, that could propel him a long way in this competition.

Results: Though the temptation was surely to get swept up in the moment and give Flutie high scores, the judges still graded him on his dancing and see plenty of improvement to make. Carrie Ann Inaba gave a 7, Len Goodman scored a 6, and Bruno Tonioli gave a 7 for a total of 20.


Von Miller: Contemporary


As might be expected, the past year in which Miller won a Super Bowl championship and the game’s MVP award with the Denver Broncos was his most memorable. But the pre-dance video package also included some fun photos of Miller as a kid and high school football player, as well as the intriguing story about his father not wanting him to play. Miller’s choice of song was Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” which he listens to before games to get pumped up and that seemed to get him into the moment. Going shirtless is never a bad idea with all the women that watch the show, and showing off his physique surely helped his contemporary dance number — in which he didn’t necessarily have to follow certain steps — look more impressive.

Results: Inaba called Miller out for not unleashing his intensity until late in the dance, while Goodman wanted more traditional dance moves. Tonioli, well, someone get him a towel because he enjoyed shirtless Von Miller. The Broncos linebacker drew a 7, 6 and 7 to score a 20.


Antonio Brown: Foxtrot


Other than going shirtless, bringing out your cute kid to participate in a dance routine is usually not a bad way to go on DWTS. Antonio Jr. did not disappoint, helping to create a routine in which it looked like Brown was growing from a boy into a man before our eyes. After partner Sharna Burgess made a joke about Brown being into last week’s dance, which many people noticed, the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver explained that 2007 was his most memorable year, as that was his freshman season at Central Michigan, but it was also the year his son was born. Lukas Graham’s “7 Years” was the song choice for Brown’s Foxtrot, which underlined the emotion of father and son sharing the moment.

Results: The Foxtrot seemingly suits the skills of a quick-footed NFL wide receiver. But the judges still think Brown needs to refine his technique on the ballroom floor, especially when he tends to skip rather than dance. Once again, a 7, 6 and 7 from the judges, tying Brown with Flutie and Miller at 20.


Paige VanZant: Paso Doble


After losing partner Mark Ballas to a back injury last week and excelling with replacement Alan Bersten, VanZant continued to be one of the season’s most impressive contestants. Perhaps making this week’s performance more impressive is that VanZant’s Paso Doble — along with her memorable year choice of 2014, when she had her first UFC match — reminded viewers that she comes from MMA and has developed into a top fighter, which you might not guess from watching her dance. But setting up an octagon in which she and Ballas battled in what can be a somewhat confrontational dance was a good choice, which showed how far VanZant has come since she was bullied as a teenager.

Results: The judges were impressed by VanZant’s combination of power and grace. Again, she looks like a natural dancer out there and she scored accordingly with an 8, 7 and 8 for a 23. That tied her and Ballas with Jodie Sweeten and Keo Motsepe for the second-highest score of the evening.


Once again, Doug Flutie was in the bottom three, in jeopardy of being eliminated, with Sweeten and Motsepe and Mischa Barton and Artem Chigvintsev. The show had to run through the elimination stage quickly, as some post-dance interviews ran long, so host Tom Bergeron couldn’t build suspense as usual.

But Flutie never truly seemed to be in danger of going home, so much as just drawing one of the lower vote totals. Barton seemed absolutely miserable in being criticized by judges, in addition to torturing her dance partner with her drama. She was mercifully relieved of DWTS duties, while the four athletes in competition stay alive.


About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.

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