Never underestimate the dancing skills of a big brother. “Inside the NFL” host and former Oakland Raider Warren Sapp has proven that he can handle more than a two-step on the dance floor on the seventh season of “Dancing With the Stars.” In fact, his large physique and athletic prowess further proves that size doesn’t matter-at least when it comes to agility. In addition to quickstepping, the 35-year-old former defensive tackle puts his game face on to perform the Viennesse Waltz. ESSENCE.com chatted with the gentle giant about fat-boy stereotypes, the toughness of pleather, and why “DWTS” should include break dancing as a category.
ESSENCE.COM: You’ve been doing your thing, proving that big guys can be light on their feet too. What’s the one stereotype people have about your capabilities as a dancer?
WARREN SAPP: First of all, I don’t do stereotypes. The whole thing about my life is, I’ve had to fight the stigma that comes along with being a defensive and offensive liner that we are dumb and can’t speak. I had someone tell me you speak so well and I’m like, How do you speak badly? So I try not to judge and assess each individual as I deal with them. That’s how it should be. But to really answer your question, I’m doing big men proud! I’m 300 pounds and 6′ 2″.
ESSENCE.COM: Mr. Sapp, you are killin’ ’em right now. What has been the most difficult move for you to master?
SAPP: The cha-cha I loved, but that quickstep really got me. The first move in that dance is like a drop, then step. I’m thinking, Who thought of that? This doesn’t make any sense. First you rock back, then forward and then lean sideways. Are you kidding me? I don’t even think they let Black people on the dance floor back then! (Laughs.) No, but seriously, I’m having so much fun! I have a great memory and it has served me well because you have to learn all these different styles of dance. It’s tough, but nothing compares to getting knocked upside the head by 200- and 300-pounders on the field all day, and my big toe has been causing me some pain because of those shoes, but other than that, I’m a trooper and enjoying myself.
ESSENCE.COM: So far, so good, but what is the blooper or blunder you’ve had during the competition?
SAPP: When I did the “Matrix Reloaded.” No, I say that because on the floor there was this pleather or polyester material. I can attest that pleather doesn’t give you any good slip and slide. We were doing this bull-and-matador choreography and I spun her on the floor, and I was supposed to put the cape on her and I had to improvise… I scored 24 points. They liked it so much they asked for an encore and I was thinking, Hey, they don’t ask me to play the football game I played on Sunday again on Monday! How am I supposed to pull it off twice?! (Laughs.)
ESSENCE.COM: Now that you’ve learned ballroom dancing, will you and your wife start to have dance nights?
SAPP: (Laughs.) Uhhh, no. No dance night. She can get a dinner night, a baby night, but no dance night. But I will tell you this: It’s going down on the show! But I can’t take my wife dancing because she’d need to know how to do all of it first. I can’t have her dancing and she’s stepping on my toes and I’m stepping on hers. It’s different because I have a professional teaching me, but I don’t know if I could teach my wife as well as my instructor. But I’m good on the homefront; I’m the man! When I come home and show them what I’ve learned, my kids, who are 10 and 8, are like, “Get it, Daddy! Get it, Daddy!” And my grandmother, who’s like 81 or 82, watches the show and says, “I’m the only one [in the family] who can cut a rug so he got his skills from me!” Now my teammates watch and say, “We see you!” But I have to get them to vote. I need folk to keep voting and call 800-868-3413.
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs.) So you have your own cheerleading squad. I notice you add your own flava, so if you could choose a dance style to include in the competition, what would it be?
SAPP: I’d bring a cardboard out and bring hip-hop nation and break dance! Those floors are nice and slippery and you could do some nice spins on it. Then I’d blast “Rapper’s Delight” and tell everyone to get their swerve on! Or I’d do some sort of mimic competition where you perform your favorite music video. I’d break out and do a Michael Jackson video. Shoot, Maurice [Greene] broke out and did the Centipede [also known as the Worm] across the floor. The head judge wasn’t feeling it. I was like, Note to self: No Centipede and no breaking dancing. But I tell you what: If they kick me off the show, you’re going to see Fat Boy spinning in the middle of the dance floor!
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