Season 22 of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars was bound to get a bit more attention than usual from sports fans, with the presence of four athletes in the cast, led by two current NFL players, one of whom is the freshly minted Super Bowl MVP.

Maybe watching a dancing competition isn’t your ideal way of spending a Monday night, so we watched the first night of the contest so you didn’t have to. DWTS is a lot of fun, however, with good music, fun personalities and honestly, some impressive physical specimens to watch on the dance floor. Here’s a look at how MMA fighter Paige VanZant, broadcaster Doug Flutie, wide receiver Antonio Brown and linebacker Von Miller performed in their DWTS debuts.


Paige VanZant: Foxtrot

The MMA star certainly passed the initial eyeball test as a dancer, which can be a significant obstacle to clear early in this contest. VanZant quickly showed no difficulty in the transition from the ring to the dance floor. She also got lucky by drawing Mark Ballas, who’s had a track record of success on this show, as her partner. But she looked graceful on her feet and with her hand placement, looking smooth and not awkward. VanZant also had a smile on her face throughout the routine, which is also important. Don’t look like you’re thinking about steps or concentrating too much on what needs to be done.

Results: The judges apparently thought VanZant looked natural, with each giving her a 7 for a total of 21 — which is a pretty good mark for the very first night. (No one’s getting a 10.)


Doug Flutie: Foxtrot

The former Heisman Trophy winner and current NFL broadcaster had a rough go in his first outing. As you can see from the video above, Flutie’s footwork often seemed out of sync. At times, it looked like he was running more than dancing. His timing was also off at several points, reaching for partner Karina Smirnoff too soon in a step. He also appeared to either spin Smirnoff too far away or was facing the wrong way going into the next move. Those sorts of errors tend to look immediately glaring, especially when Flutie holds his hands out like, “What did I do?” And the faces. Don’t make goofy faces and remind everyone that you’re not a dancer.

Results: The judges were harsh, and it felt as if they could have been more so. Notoriously cranky lead judge Len Goodman almost looked offended by Flutie’s performance. He got 5 on each scorecard, resulting in a 15 for the second-lowest score of the night.


Antonio Brown: Quickstep

Flutie should at least take some facial cues from Brown, whose seemingly permanent smile made him immediately charming (Judge Carrie Ann Inaba was clearly intrigued) and appear more natural on the dance floor. The quickstep can be a tough first dance because of the light, fast footwork it requires, but for the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, that choice probably played right into his game. Upright posture and keeping the head still are also very important in this dance, and Brown also did a good job of fulfilling those criteria, though he did seem to have trouble maintaining the proper hold at times.

Results: As mentioned, the judges found Brown’s personality and energy appealing. That goes a long way early in the contest, before technique becomes more important and is scrutinized more heavily. Brown scored a 7 from each judge, giving him a total of 21. Again, that’s a good score for the first night when expectations are relatively low and the bar can only go so high.


Von Miller: Foxtrot

The Super Bowl 50 MVP started his routine off with a cheesy press conference setting, but it worked for a player going from the pinnacle of his sport to competing on Dancing With the Stars. Miller dealt with one obstacle that the other athletes didn’t have to worry about, in that he towers over partner Witney Carson. It almost looked like me dancing with my five-year-old niece out there. He’s just a big dude and that can make it difficult to look graceful. But Miller maintained his posture and smile, showing he’s light on his feet and demonstrated a flair for showmanship that could give him a boost in the early weeks of the contest.

Results: The judges saw the same thing that the rest of us did with the significant height difference between Miller and Carson, and seemed to give him credit for that. Miller looked smooth, not clumsy, which surely went against expectations. Each judge gave him a 7 for a total of 21, tying him with four other dancers for second place.

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.