EXCLUSIVE: Rashad Jennings Opens Up About Emotional 'DWTS' Performance: 'I Hope it Inspires Some People'

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Rashad Jennings opened his heart to the world on Monday's Dancing With the Stars, sharing the story of his tumultuous relationship with his father and their emotional reconnection for the show's "Most Memorable Year" week.
According to the NFL pro, it felt "really, really good to be able to dance such an emotional dance."
ET's Cameron Mathison caught up with Jennings and his partner, Emma Slater, after the show, and the handsome star opened up about getting the chance to tell an "authentic" interpretation of his connection to his dad.
"That's my life story," Jennings shared. "That's how I feel towards my father, and to be able to express that on the dance floor -- and Emma coming up with her awesome choreography for it -- I was able to display a lot. So I'm super honored to be able to do that."
In a pre-taped package before his performance, Jennings got candid about having a strained relationship with his dad as a child, given his father's distant attitude and alcohol abuse. However, their connection changed in 2006, when his dad suffered a stroke and had to get his legs amputated due to complications from diabetes.
Jennings put his football career on hold to go home and care for his father, despite many telling him he would be throwing away any chance at his NFL dreams. However, the pro running back recalled that "being closer to home changed the way me and my father related to one another. My dad got lost at one point, but I never held a grudge against him. It just made me want to be there for him even more."
Jennings and Slater performed a contemporary routine, set to a cover of Katy Perry's "Unconditionally," that brought the entire theater to tears. Jennings concluded the emotional number by walking off the dance floor to hug his wheelchair-bound father in the audience, and the two openly wept as they embraced.
For their powerful performance, Jennings and Slater were rewarded with three 10s and a 9 for a score of 39 out of 40, easily the highest score of the season.
"Obviously the scores shocked me," Jennings told ET. "I was surprised, but honestly, I could've gotten zeros and I still would feel as good as I do right now because that was much more than a dance to me. That was me having poetry in motion."
"I hope it inspires some people," he added of his performance. "I want people to have that same feeling that I have right now and regardless of the scores, I hope it motivates some families."
That sentiment was shared by judge Bruno Tonioli, who said during his feedback after Jennings' routine that he was "mesmerized."
"I wasn't watching dance, I was watching two great artists painting one of the most beautiful works of art expressed through dance," said Tonioli, who was one of the three judges to give the dance a 10.
While the night was exceptionally emotional, Jennings said he's still coming at DWTS with a healthy competitive spirit.
"That competitive nature is in there, for sure," he admitted, adding that the feeling is fostered by the challenging environment of constant rehearsals. "Every day [there is] something new to tackle -- like tomorrow we're going to tackle something else, brand new that I've never done."
For more on Jennings' emotional dance -- and a few other tear-jerking personal stories from the DWTS contestants -- check out the video below.