has been killing it on the Dancing With the Stars
stage for weeks, but the NFL star and his pro-partner, Emma Slater, had gone the whole season without a perfect score -- that is until the first night of the finals!
Before taking the stage Monday, Jennings opened up to his partner in a pre-taped package about what winning the Mirrorball trophy
would mean for him.
"I was talking to my mom and she brought up how close I am right now to possibly winning, and we laughed because I've never won anything," Jennings shared with Slater. "I've never won a playoff game, never won a championship. I've always been close to everything but I've never won the big prize."
Their redemption dance was a Viennese waltz, which they previously performed in Week 2, and earned an 32 out of 40 -- which was still tied for the highest score of the week at the time, but far from perfect.
Taking to the stage, the pair delivered a wild, passionate performance set to The Weeknd's "Dark Times" and performed in front of the backdrop of a rain-soaked night.
For the first time, the judges' feedback for Jennings and Slater was nothing but glowing, and it was clear this was their best-received dance so far.
"You really have become the polished diamond that everyone was expecting," Bruno Tonioli shared.
"This is what makes winners winners," Carrie Ann Inaba added.
Even Len Goodman had nothing but praise for the couple, and after all the feedback was given, Goodman awarded Jennings a 10 for the first time this season. Along with their flawless scores from the other judges, Jennings and Slater earned an amazing 40 out of 40.
"For me, it would mean the world. But seriously, this woman beside me is who I'm fighting for," Jennings said, embracing Slater. "She so deserves it. She's amazing."
Before their second dance of the night kicked off, it was clear Slater was just as dedicated to helping Jennings get his big win as well.
"There's a lot of pressure on me to get it right, because he's never won anything and I think that's really crazy," an emotional Slater shared in a pre-taped package, wiping tears from her eyes. "I would love so much to take him all the way there. I don't want to let him down."
Their freestyle -- set to "Uptown Funk" -- was choreographed by Jennings himself, and embodied the fun, wild spirit of a Super Bowl halftime performance. Jennings and Slater came out with all the energy and enthusiasm they could muster and the NFL pro brought so much style and charisma
, he could have given Bruno Mars a run for his money when it came to pure showmanship.
Everybody was on their feet after the epic performance. The crowd's energy couldn't be contained and neither could the judges, who had nothing but effusive praise for the freestyle and awarded the couple their second perfect score of the night, for a combined total of 80 out of 80, meaning the pair enter the second night of the finals at the top of the leaderboard.