Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson, LaFace Records founder Babyface on DWTS season 23

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 27: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions warms up prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field on December 27, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 27: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions warms up prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field on December 27, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I have to readily admit. I don’t know the NFL well at all. Only now, nearly 12 hours after the season 23 “Dancing With the Stars” cast was announced, did I learn that one of them attended Georgia Tech: recently retired Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

Newnan native Johnson was considered one of Georgia Tech’s best players ever, where he was recognized twice as an All American.

Johnson was drafted second by the Lions overall in 2007 after his junior year at Tech. His best season was 20212. On December 22, 2012, Johnson broke Rice’s single-season record for receiving yards.

He retired earlier this year from the NFL at the relatively young age of 30 after nine successful seasons. He told ESPN at the time that he’d like to go back to Tech and finish his degree.

“I’ve been thinking about it my whole career,” Johnson told ESPN.com. “It’s just, while I’m playing, it’s not really a great time for me to do it.”

He told CBS Sports that if the Lions had been a better team, he might have stayed on longer though he said his body was worn out, too: “If we would have been a contender it would have been hard to let go.”

Some of his former Lions players were skeptical that he’d do particularly well on “Dancing With the Stars.”

“To me, he’s not much of a dancer at all,” receiver TJ Jones told Freep.com. “I’ve never even seen him wiggle his shoulders. That’s why, for me, it’s like, I’ll believe it when I’ll see it.”

Lions receiver Golden Tate told Freep he went to Johnson’s wedding and saw him dance twice. His one word description: “Stiff.”

Running back Ameer Abdullah bluntly predicted he will be “awful.”

Yikes.

He is paired with pro dancer Lindsay Arnold, who has performed three times before. She finished fourth in the spring with Boyz II Men singer Wanya Morris.

NFL players appear frequently on “Dancing With the Stars,” many with great success, though a couple were duds. Jerry Rice came in second season two. Emmitt Smith won season three and came fourth during the all star edition season 15. Warren Sapp was runner up season seven. Lawrence Taylor landed seventh season eight. Chad Ochocinco finished fourth season 10. Kurt Warner was fifth season 11. Atlantan Hines Ward won season 12. Jacoby Jones was crowned third season 16. Keyshawn Johnson was eliminated first season 17. Doug Flutie was ninth this past season.

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 20:  Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds performs onstage at 11th Annual Jazz In The Gardens Music Festival - Day 2 at Sunlife Stadium on March 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mychal Watts/Getty Images for Jazz in the Gardens)

MIAMI, FL – MARCH 20: Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds performs onstage at 11th Annual Jazz In The Gardens Music Festival – Day 2 at Sunlife Stadium on March 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mychal Watts/Getty Images for Jazz in the Gardens)

Another cast member with Atlanta ties to a lesser degree is Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. He helped found LaFace Records with L.A. Reid and lived briefly in Atlanta a quarter century ago. LaFace helped launch the careers of TLC, Toni Braxton, OutKast, Pink, Usher and Goodie Mob. He has had plenty of his own R&B hits including “Whip Appeal,” “When Can I See You” and “Every Time I Close My Eyes.”

The other cast members this season include the usual mish mosh of athletes, pop culture icons of yore, reality stars and singers, plus a politician: Olympians Ryan Lochte and Laurie Hernandez,  Kanye West‘s ex and model Amber Rose, rap star and DIY star Vanilla Ice, former Texas governor Rick Perry, “Brady Bunch” star Maureen McCormick, actress Marilu Henner, “Little Women LA” star Terra Jolé, actor Jake T. Austin, race car driver James Hinchcliffe and country singer Jana Kramer.

The 23rd season debuts September 12 at 8 p.m.


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