From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
The competition took place on a parquet floor, not Astroturf, but running-back-turned-Dancing with the Stars champ Emmitt Smith approached it with a gridiron game plan. "It's always been my philosophy: It's not where you start, it's where you finish," says the ex-Dallas Cowboy, who made some missteps early on but got his cha-chas in order and snatched the season 3 crown away from Mario Lopez. (Lopez took his loss hard, commenting post-finale, "Apparently world-class dancing wasn't enough.") Smith's words were for the fans. "I do not take this [title] lightly—so many people in this country believed in us so much," says Smith, 37, who also credits his Dancing partner, Cheryl Burke, 22, for his victory. "I'd put Cheryl right up there with some of the top coaches I've played for in terms of pushing me and teaching me."

Now Smith will be adding a gaudy disco ball to a trophy case that includes three Super Bowl rings. And as reigning Dancing titleholder, he'll be juggling "a lot of speaking engagements, and a couple other things on the table I'm not sure I can do because of time," he says. "I need about 10 of me." But first things first: Smith can't wait to go home to Dallas and wife Patricia, 34, a former Miss Virginia, and their four kids. "He is one happy man and I'm so proud of him," says Patricia, who—if her husband has his way—has some serious waltzing in her future. "But I'm not going to teach her," says Smith. "That's Cheryl's job."