Hines Ward moved one step closer to his goal of winning the Mirror Ball Trophy when he advanced to the finals of "Dancing With the Stars."
Ward, who has been popular with judges and the voting audience, will perform three dances on the finale Monday, May 23.
"We're going to have fun," said Ward. "It's an honor to be in the finals. That was our goal. Whoever wins, it's well deserved. We are going to go out there and have fun."
Ward and dance partner Kym Johnson had the judges on their feet and wiping tears away on Monday night after an inspiring and electric Argentine tango on their first dance during Week 9 on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."
The performance came after what was an emotional week for the pair when Johnson injured her neck during rehearsals and had to be taken to the hospital. Johnson was testing out some tough lifts with Ward when he lost his balance and landed on her, injuring her neck. As Johnson lay on the floor she said she couldn't feel her arms.
"I am sick," said Ward in a taped interview. "That was my biggest thing, I didn't want to drop her.
"She is more worried about my practice. To be honest, I am not thinking about the competition right now. I just hope and pray she is all right."
Johnson was forced to wear a neck brace for part of the week, but as the saying goes the show must go on, and the two proved they are true professionals who deserve to win the competition.
The tango wowed the studio audience and judges, and was emotional for all, including Ward and Johnson who joined judge Carrie Ann Inaba in tears.
It also earned the couple a perfect score of 30 out of 30, with each of the judges rewarding them with a 10.
Prior to Ward's second dance was a moving tribute to the wide receiver and his mother, Kim Young He, who made numerous sacrifices leaving Korea to give Ward a better life in America. It highlighted the struggles he faced growing up bi-racial and featured tributes by friends, teammates and coaches.
"His mom went through so much in terms of sacrifice for him and I think that's where he gets his work ethic," said former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis.
Ward praised his mother and thanked her for what she did, while others praised him for working hard to make it as far as he has.
"Hines is one of those guys that always puts himself in position to seize those once in a lifetime moments," said coach Mike Tomlin. "Not only because he is extremely talented, but because he works so hard. That is what being the MVP of the Super Bowl is about and that's what competing with Dancing with the Stars is about.
"You couple that with the kind of talent that he has, the sky is the limit."
After hearing those words, it was nothing but success for Ward on his second dance, an energetic salsa that had the crowd on their feet waving Terrible Towels and the judges once again blown away enough to give them another perfect score of 30 for a total of 60 out of 60 for the two dances.
There was no rest for the weary though. Ward and Johnson had to perform a winner take all cha-cha, with the winner getting 15 bonus points. In the first round Ward defeated Ralph Macchio, but the judges ruled in favor of Chelsea Kane in the final round.
What The Judges Said During the Show:Carrie Ann Inaba:
On the Argentine tango: "I am just happy you are okay, because that was a serious injury. I am so impressed with your routine and the way you danced it. Hines I am so impressed with you and the way you partnered her through that routine. That routine would have been very dangerous for her and I saw the way you supported her. The connection was beyond what we asked for in a dance routine. The dance was stunning, excellent job."
On the salsa: "I can't even explain how much joy I get when you dance. I grew up dancing as a self-expression and it's about letting it out and letting people enjoy. That is what you have done every single time you have come out."
On the Argentine tango: "I was there. I was in the club watching the whole story unfold. I was peeping behind the curtain. We were all there. That is a tango."
On the salsa: "You were steaming and I was beaming. I loved it. The saying you can dance for joy fits you and it was a joyful experience. I love your philosophy, success comes in can's, not can'ts…and you can."
On the Argentine tango: "Every emotion was out there for the taking."
On the salsa: "Just once sentence can describe you. You're just beautiful man. Beautiful person, great ability, great versatility and supremely watchable."
What He Said:
Hines Ward after his dances on the show:
On his partner Kym Johnson: "Praise to God she is still walking. She is a warrior. Seeing that, I was sick to my stomach."
"It's great to come out. I owe it all to Kym. To go through a hard week, a trying week and still go out and perform like this, I owe it all to her. She is the best."
On his mother: "She gets nervous, especially when the judges have something to see. She says don't you talk about my baby like that."