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Ballroom scouting

Cheryl Burke and Ochocinco will be dance partners on Dancing with the Stars.

While the Bengals scout the NFL for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco's running mate for next season, here is a scouting report from The Ocho's dance partner.

"He's determined. He's competitive. He reminds me of Emmitt," says Cheryl Burke of Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. "They both want to win."

Their first chance is in two weeks when the opening show of this year's Dancing With The Stars hits ABC March 22. The 25-year-old Burke may look like a beauty queen and talk softer than NPR, but she's got the heart of a goal-line stand when it comes to winning. Which she has done in this competition twice, once with Smith and once with Drew Lachey.

"Every week," she says, "I dance like it's going to be my last time."

She thinks she can get the triple crown with the man who once beat a horse in a foot race. After working with the low-slung Smith, Burke sees the advantage in being teamed with a 6-foot-1 wide receiver instead of a 5-11 running back.

"I know he's not used to running on two-inch heels, so that has to be getting to him a little bit," Burke says. "He's very graceful. He's got good rhythm. He's obviously got a dancer's body. He's leaner and taller and more flexible. There's more of him to work with."

And they're working it. You can tell by The Ocho's painful tweets after four-hour rehearsals. Ochocinco says he'll be good with the Latin numbers and like she did with Smith and Lachey she'll open with a cha-cha for their first dance.


"He's got to learn to move his feet faster to stay in time with the music," Burke says. "I think that will be a good first dance for him."

Some kids grow up with batting cages in their backyards. Burke grew up in Atherton, Calif., with a dance floor in her home of dancers, so the TV wasn't exactly always turned to ESPN. She took up ballet at age four and began competing at age 13, so when she heard she had been paired with The Ocho she started Googling. She didn't watch tape of any of his end-zone dances, but Ochoglimpses on You Tube were enough.

"It inspired me," Burke says. "You could see he had personality and that's a big thing when you dance and he's definitely got that. He's a lot of fun to be around. He always has a smile on his face from the first day of training. He's down-to-earth. A lot of my girlfriends have huge crushes on Chad."

Burke thinks they have a shot.

"He's got such a huge following," he says. "I want to make sure that his personality comes through. He's got the kind of personality that everyone can relate to and if he can mix that in with his dancing then I think he can win it all."

But there is no doubt who the veteran is here. Burke starts sounding like Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis when they get on a hot streak.

"In my experience on the show," she says, "you have to take everything week-by-week, dance-by-dance, step-by-step, and then hopefully at the end you've done all you can."

Sounds just like an AFC North scouting report.

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