EXCLUSIVE: 'DWTS' Pro Lindsay Arnold Explains How Calvin Johnson Plans to Shatter Another One of Jerry Rice's Records

by Desiree Murphy 11:24 AM PDT, October 11, 2016
Photo: Instagram

Lindsay Arnold still has her eye on that mirror ball trophy!

While chatting with ET on Tuesday, the 22-year-old dancer gushed over her partner, Calvin Johnson, and the surprise appearance by his NFL idol, Jerry Rice, one night earlier on Dancing With the Stars.

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At the end of Arnold and Johnson's jazz routine to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," the former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver (and DWTS alum!) took the stage to catch a pass from Johnson, who Arnold says was in "shock" over the "huge surprise."

"The producers and I were kind of toying around with the idea of surprising Calvin all week," Arnold explained. "We were trying to come up with something that would make the dance really memorable for him. On Sunday during camera blocking, the producers came to me and said, 'We got Jerry Rice to come. He's going to be in the dance.'"

"Then, we had to figure out how to incorporate him," she added. "I would have put him in more of the routine, but he literally showed up five minutes before the live show started. It was super exciting, but also kind of terrifying. I was stressed, thinking like, 'Please, Calvin, do not turn around, get shocked, and then drop the football.' But everything turned out so well and I'm so grateful and appreciative Jerry came on and did that."

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Rice was a longtime holder of the NFL's single-season record for receiving yards with 1,848. But on Dec. 22, 2012, Johnson shattered that record, with 1,964 yards (averaging approximately 123 yards per game) with the Detroit Lions -- a mark he still holds.

Now, Arnold says Johnson plans to beat another one of Rice's records -- by taking first place on DWTS! As many fans of the dance competition show may recall, Rice competed on season two with pro Anna Trebunskaya, placing second to Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke.

"You know what, Calvin broke one of Jerry Rice's records already, and we're after his other record on Dancing With the Stars," Arnold exclaimed. "We want to beat that -- we have to! That is definitely the goal and I think that is for sure a possibility. We're going to do everything we can to see if we can make that happen!"

Read more highlights from Arnold's latest chat with ET below.

ET: Last night was actually the first time Calvin and Jerry ever met. What was that moment like, witnessing your partner meet his No. 1 idol backstage?

Lindsay Arnold: During the sweep, Calvin was talking about breaking Jerry's record, and I was like, 'Is he a nice guy?' and that's when I found out he had never met him. You would think that these two football greats would cross paths at some point. But to watch them interact and pay their respects to each other was really cool. They both had such nice things to say about each other.

It was so cool you recently got to visit Ford Field, the field Calvin played on for so many years. Tell us more about setting foot in that stadium.

That was really cool for me, because up until then, I hadn't really gotten a taste of Calvin's world because he's not playing [football] anymore. To be able to go to the place he has made his whole career in and just see him in his element was extremely fun for me. And also just hearing him talk about why his most memorable year was so special -- not only because he broke Jerry's record, but because his family was able to be there and support him. It was so encompassed around his family, and it really showed me how much family means to Calvin.

NEWS: Lindsay Arnold Gushes Over 'Perfectionist' Calvin Johnson's 'Best Night Yet'

Let's talk about the judging last night. Bruno Tonioli was RAVING over Calvin. At one point he said, "You really are a dancer." How does Calvin feel after receiving such high praise like that?

You can tell that he really appreciates that. He's a perfectionist and always wants to do better, but he loves the praise because he puts a lot of hard work in.

Week after week, you guys have been consistent with your high scores (8s across the board again!), but Julianne [Hough] did give you a suggestion last night, telling you to push Calvin even harder. How do you plan to do that next week?

That comment is interesting as a professional, because of course I am pushing Calvin every single week -- I would never not push him. There's no point to be on the show as a professional if you're not pushing your celebrity to step out of their bounds and do something different. In that sense, I didn't think I really needed a reminder -- I will always push my partner because that's the kind of professional I am.

Especially going back on last week with our Charleston, I still look at that dance and go, 'Wow, I cannot believe I got a non-dancer to do the things we were doing.' Our dance last night was more dialed down -- not as many death-defying risks -- but he still was taken out of his comfort zone. But I will take what Julianne said and I am of course going to push him again next week. In order to prove he should win this competition, he has to show something new every week. So that's my plan!

Megatron has been a standout since week No. 1, but watching the show, I feel as if the judges seem to be getting harder on him now because they know what he's capable of. You guys tied with a few other couples last night (Maureen McCormick and Artem Chigvintsev, Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke, and Amber Rose and Maksim Chmerkovskiy). Does that worry you at all, or is it just fuel to step up your game?

A little bit of both. I don't want our scores to end up in us going home, I hope that America is still voting for us! At the same time, sometimes we do feel like our scores are a little bit lower than we thought we would have gotten, but it drives us to push harder. We feel like we haven't gotten quite there with the scores that we should be getting.

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Switching gears, we HAVE to talk about these engagements! First, dance pro couple Sasha Farber and Emma Slater, and now, Ryan Lochte and his longtime girlfriend, Kayla Rae Reid. What's the vibe been like behind the scenes with all of this exciting news?

So exciting! Sasha actually Facetimed me about three weeks before [it happened] and showed me the ring, so I had to keep it a secret for SO long. Emma was dropping hints about Sasha in front of me, like, 'Babe, we should go ring shopping soon.' And then during dress rehearsal -- the same day that Sasha asked Emma to marry him -- he told me he was going to propose to Emma live on the show that night.

I'm the kind of person that when I know a secret, I have a really hard time not acting like I know something. [You asked me] about this the week before it happened, and I was so stressed! I knew, but I wasn't going to say anything. After [our interview] I went to Sasha and was like, 'Do people know about this? I think people are saying something because I got asked about it today.' It was so funny. I was just waiting and waiting for him to pop the question. I'm just so happy for them!

Let's go back to the theme of the night. While there were a lot of happy stories, Calvin’s being one of them, we also saw a lot of emotion on that stage from Jana Kramer, Terra Jole, Ryan Lochte, James Hinchcliffe, etc. Were there a lot of tears backstage?

Oh my gosh, tears were flowing. Everyone was crying, because we ARE a family. When you hear these stories, it makes you love and appreciate them even more. Last night was unique because we all got to learn a deeper side to each contestant -- not just the celebrity side, but a glimpse into who they really are.

Lastly, what's been YOUR most memorable year?

I would say my most memorable year was 2015, because that was the season I was brought back to the show as a pro with Alek Skarlatos and it was the same year I got married [to Sam Cusick]. It was a really, really good year for me.

The DWTS pro will be chatting with ET every Tuesday throughout the competition, and taking over ET's Snapchat (@etnow) each Monday. Got a question for Arnold or Johnson? Tweet me @desireemurphy_!

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