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Leinart giving up NFL for ballroom dancing?

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Old 03-31-2006, 10:50 PM   #1
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Leinart giving up NFL for ballroom dancing?


"By Mike Celizic
MSNBC contributor
Updated: 7:41 p.m. ET March 31, 2006

Mike Celizic
After much soul-searching, 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart has decided to forego a career in the NFL and pursue his true passion, ballroom dancing. The shocking news was learned exclusively by MSNBC.com late Thursday and confirmed by the quarterback.

“Positive,” Leinart said when asked by this reporter in a cell phone conversation if the stunning news was true. “Most people don’t know this about me, because I never talked about it; it’s not something football players want to get around the locker room. But as a kid, I’d watch Fred Astaire movies with my mom and dad and I’d think, ‘If I could be him, I’d be the happiest man in the world.’ Sure, I wanted a shot at another national championship, but the real reason I stayed an extra year in school was to take that ballroom dancing class to see if it was for me. And it was.”

Rarely does any athlete with a shot at the big time turn it down. And no one of Leinart’s stature has done so since Jay Berwanger, the winner of the first Heisman Trophy in 1935, bypassed the NFL to become a foam-rubber salesman. But Berwanger’s decision was made because George Halas, the coach and owner of the Chicago Bears, refused to give him $25,000 for two years of play. Leinart is bypassing the millions of dollars that would have been coming his way as one of the first players taken in the draft.

“If the object of your life is to make money, you’re not going to have much of a life,” he said. “It was during the Olympics that it all became clear to me. I was watching the ice dancing and thinking about the incredible rush I had in my ballroom dancing class when the spotlight was on me and my partner, and I realized I couldn’t give that up, not even for football.”

Leinart said that his decision, which is going to destroy a lot of NFL draft boards, is irrevocable. He’s already lost 20 pounds — “to be lighter on my feet” — and is on the verge of signing an endorsement contract with Paoul, the Italian dance shoe manufacturer. He also has a partner with whom he hopes to debut at next month’s MIT Open Ballroom Dance Competition.

Former USC co-ed Cinnamon Rogers is to be Leinart’s partner, both she and Leinart confirmed. Her identity was learned the same way Leinart’s decision came to light: This reporter’s daughter, Jane Celizic, a sophomore at the University of Albany, heard rumors of the story through an online acquaintance she had met at myspace.com. The online friend said she is the niece of a friend of one of Rogers’ sorority sisters who let the news slip after six Jagermeisters and three car bombs while on spring break in Cancun. Although the story seemed farfetched, Jane told her father, who began making inquiries and finally confirmed the story through Leinart.

Once confirmed, comment was sought from Leinart’s college coach, Pete Carroll, who was, surprisingly, not surprised. “I always knew Matt had a dancer’s heart,” Carroll said. “Every time he’d slip away from a blitzer in practice, he’d say, ‘Let’s see Travolta do that!’ I really envy the guy.”

Of all the reasons for trading football for dancing, Leinart said the biggest was the quality of teammate. “Nothing against Reggie and LenDale and the guys, but who do you want hugging you after a big play, a sweaty offensive tackle or a gorgeous woman? Do you have any idea what it’s like to have to reach under a center’s butt 60 times a day? Have you ever seen a center’s butt, I mean up close? If I’ve gotta touch somebody’s butt, I’m going with my dance partner and not some 300-pound slob who smells like a dead goat.”

Leinart’s partner, Cinnamon Rogers, is, by some magic quirk of serendipity, the granddaughter of Astaire’s movie dance partner, Ginger Rogers. The young Rogers’ mother is Anise Rogers. “My mother got divorced and we both took grandma’s last name,” Cinnamon said. “My mom used to joke that she and Gran were the original Spice Girls, and she kept the tradition going when she named me.”

Such stories don’t fall in a reporter’s lap very often. And this reporter has only once before had a scoop this big. It was some 20 years ago when he learned that George Steinbrenner was selling the Yankees to a group of Japanese investors and retiring to a monastery. By coincidence, that story, too, broke just in time for April 1.
Mike Celizic writes regularly for NBCSports.com and is a freelance writer based in New York. And if you take the first letter of each paragraph of this column, you'll know what he's celebrating.

ahhhh i REALLY fell for that one
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Old 03-31-2006, 10:51 PM   #2
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Re: Leinart giving up NFL for ballroom dancing?

haha that was a great article.
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Old 03-31-2006, 10:54 PM   #3
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Re: Leinart giving up NFL for ballroom dancing?

wow, that was really convincing
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Old 03-31-2006, 11:16 PM   #4
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Re: Leinart giving up NFL for ballroom dancing?

how many football players are such good dancers they could go pro at it after 1 class? and how many of those would?
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Old 04-01-2006, 12:43 AM   #5
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Re: Leinart giving up NFL for ballroom dancing?

he is becoming a ginger...so orange...so orange...
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Old 04-01-2006, 11:31 AM   #6
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Re: Leinart giving up NFL for ballroom dancing?

god i hate april fools day
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