The Raven — known for his end zone victory dances — has danced all his life, though never formally. Growing up in New Orleans, he says, his family would buy a mess of crawfish and crabs and head outside, "just regular country people in the backyard, dancin'."
Smirnoff, who has danced on the show for 13 of its 16 seasons, has partnered with actors, singers and athletes. She won the contest in 2011 at the side of Army veteran J.R. Martinez. Jones, though, will be her first football player.
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"They have the discipline," Smirnoff says. "They know what hard work is, and they're not afraid of it."
They also typically bring to the table a solid fan base — a critical element when viewer votes determine the winner.
If Jones has a handicap, it's probably not his knee. It could be his lack of national name recognition. Jones has about 17,000 Twitter followers. Among his competition on the show, Olympian Aly Raisman has more than 455,000, singer Kellie Pickler boasts more than 716,000 and comedian Andy Dick has 136,000. Even soap opera star Ingo Rademacher, whose name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, tops 43,000.
Still, Smirnoff feels good about Jones. He believes he can win, and she suspects that's at least part of the battle.
"Jacoby is confident, and to be an athlete you have to be — and I want him to be," she says. "Do I think we have what it takes to go all the way? Absolutely."
But first she must get him to stretch. Jones doesn't care for stretching. In fact, he informs her, he doesn't do it and even Ravens coaches can't make him.
"I'm not a stretcher," he says, spread-eagled on the floor and not happy about it.
"Stretch!" Smirnoff commands. "It's for your benefit. Stretch!"
"No," he says. "It's not going to happen."
She leans forward, pressing on each of his feet. "Do you feel it?"
"I do," he says.
"I don't think so," she says.
"Trust me, I do," he says, lapsing into a riff about how his coaches — who until now have been convinced of his stretch-free ways — will see him doing it on the show and make him start.
"You talk so much [bleep]," she says, laughing. "The [bleep] you talk walks into the room five minutes before you do."
He cracks up. "That's good. I haven't heard that one before."
When the pair finally start dancing, Jones doesn't look half bad, especially considering his one day of practice. He knows the moves and keeps up with Smirnoff, who's already encouraging him to refine his technique — asking for extended arms, straightened fingers, and steps from the balls of his feet, not the heels. She wants big and exaggerated movements. She wants it all clean and controlled. And she wants sexy. Suave hip thrusts and brazen booty rolls.
"Roll it! Roll it!" she demands. "Use what the Lord gave you."