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Former Dalton resident J.R. Martinez poised to win ‘Dancing With the Stars’

J.R. Martinez with his partner Karina Smirnoff is in solid position to win the mirror-ball trophy Nov. 22. CREDIT: Adam Taylor/ABC

J.R. Martinez with his partner Karina Smirnoff is in solid position to win the mirror-ball trophy Nov. 22. CREDIT: Adam Taylor/ABC

First impressions matter.

J.R. Martinez, a favorite to win ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” Tuesday, entered Dalton High School in 2001 as a senior from Arkansas. He could have easily been ignored, a late-comer facing cemented social dynamics.

But his infectiously positive spirit and personality made him instantly popular.  “Within weeks, everybody knew him – parents, kids, teachers,” said Susan Ward, the mother of one of J.R.’s best friends Aaron. “You know that smile he  has now? He always had that smile.”

A decade later, millions of TV viewers have embraced Martinez on the popular reality competition program.

“Positivity is my secret to success,” he said on the show Monday.

Ward, a middle school teacher in Dalton, said people have come up to her and said, “I wish I knew him.” “If you watch him on ’Dancing With the Stars,’ ” she said, “you know him. He may not know you but you know him.”

After graduating from Dalton High, Martinez joined the U.S. Army. But in 2003, at age 19, he nearly died after his Humvee hit a landmine in Iraq. He had burns on 40 percent of his body, undergoing 33 surgeries, including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery. ”There is no amount of medicine they can give you take that pain away,” he told People magazine recently.

Ward remembers talking to him by phone when he was in hospital. “He could barely talk,” she said. “I started crying. He ended up comforting me!”

In 2008, with no acting experience, he won a small role as a soldier on ABC’ soap “All My Children.” Viewers liked him so much, he was promoted to regular cast member.

On “Dancing With the Stars,” Martinez gives the impression he’s had prior dance experience.

He doesn’t. He has natural ability and a laser-like work ethic. “People don’t see that I’m really pushing myself and I mess up a lot,” he said on the show that aired Monday. (Martinez was unavailable for an interview this past week.)

Martinez has been near or at the top of the leaderboard each week, peaking Nov. 7 with perfect scores on both his dances. But he twisted his ankle during rehearsal last week and again during his paso doble on the live show last Monday. As a result, his scores suffered. “More zero than Zorro,” judge Len Goodman sniped.

Nonetheless, he made the finals.

Ward said Martinez texted her Thursday and said his ankle has improved.

His biggest challenger for the mirror-ball trophy will be former talk-show host Ricki Lake, who had a higher average judges’ score through nine weeks than Martinez. But  the judges only counts for half the point total. The other half is from public votes and based on buzz on social media, he is very popular. Bodog, a sport gambling site, has Martinez winning at 1 to 2 odds (which means you bet $2, you get $1 in winnings), Lake at 3 to 1 and Rob Kardashian at 4 to 1.

As fellow “Dancing With the Stars” contestant Nancy Grace said last week: ”“I think it’s going to be tough for anybody to beat a war hero who happens to know how to dance.”


“Dancing With the Stars”

8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, performance show finale, ABC.

9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, two-hour season finale, ABC.

Join my Facebook fan page and Twitter.

By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

32 comments Add your comment


November 21st, 2011
6:15 pm

Regardless of who wins, JR has been a class act. Doesn’t take away from the efforts of Ricki Lake, but he’s clearly an amazing guy.


November 21st, 2011
6:23 pm

Another great piece, Mr. Ho! :) I’m still waiting for you to follow me on twitter and maybe leave a comment on my blog! Neither you nor your grammar nazis made much of a showing today. :)


I'm rooting for Kardashian.

November 21st, 2011
7:00 pm

No one left on the show deserves to win more than him.

[...] more Former Dalton resident J.R. Martinez poised to win ‘Dancing With the Stars’ at Radio & TV Talk… You Might Also Like…Who made the finals of ‘Dancing [...]

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]


November 21st, 2011
7:46 pm

Mr. Martinez visited my class about 4 years ago and really inspired my 4th grade students. He has a beautiful spirit, and his smile is truly infectious. Quite frankly, he is a very handsome man. I am very proud of him and his accomplishments.

I'd like to slap ALL the Kardashians

November 21st, 2011
7:56 pm

J.R deserves to win!

A hero and a fine man

November 21st, 2011
7:58 pm

JR all the way!

Betty Palmer

November 21st, 2011
8:52 pm

I am voting for J.R. to win

Elizabeth Johnson

November 21st, 2011
9:14 pm

Voting for J.R to win


November 21st, 2011
9:15 pm

Dancing with the stars is cheating, when you call 1-800-868-3410 to win it is stating that number is no longer in service but if I dial 1-800-868-3402 it says thanks for voting. I have been trying from cell which is AT&T and from home phone which is comcast, but my husband is able to vote with Verizon. Not fair I feel as though this if fixed for Rob Kardashian to win and Ricky Lake to come in second, and this has been in play for last two weeks. Dancing with the stars need to be ashamed of themselves, will not watch next year.

Mary Jo

November 21st, 2011
9:18 pm

JR is an amazing human being who gave his all to this competition just as he gave his all as a soldier serving our country! I hope he wins — he deserves it for all the joy he’s given all of us these last weeks! go JR goooooooooo! :)


November 21st, 2011
9:32 pm

All 3 finalists were terrific. I would be OK with any of them winning. I gave all 5 of my votes to JR. I am a fan of JR’s work on All My Children. it would also be nice to see Katrina win.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

J Carter

November 22nd, 2011
1:05 am

I am for JR all the way! They shouldn’t have scored him so low in the first dance. That will probably knock him out of the win! I will never understand Rob K getting such high scores the last two wks. Typical judging trying to secure a win for one they want to win. I’m pretty much done with this show after all the crazy scores this season.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]


November 22nd, 2011
6:56 am

Dancing with the Stars is rigged just like all the other competing programs. They already know who is going to win….Ricki Lake. I saw a preview/commercial over the week-end they accidently for half of a second showed a clip of Ricki Lake holding the mirror ball she and her dance partner Derrick Hough, both dress in the yellow from last week. The clip was only for a half of a second because the cameraman of whomever controls the clips realized in a split second that they were showing that portion of the finals. It is rigged. If I what I saw is true tonight, I will not watch DTWS anymore. My choice is JR Martinez. I have nothing against Ricki Lake; what I am saying is, if it is not Live like they say it is then it is filmed and voted ahead of scheduled. This is deceit of the voters. Ricki Lake will be dressed in the yellow from last week holding the mirror ball.


November 22nd, 2011
8:28 am

haha man you people need to get a grip on life…

Marilyn McClain

November 22nd, 2011
10:27 am

Jr is truly the best at everything he does,He don’t look at himself as a loser, He truly is great at anything he attempts,I was a big fan on all my children since day one, and when he came on i thought he was a seasoned actor,thats how good he was,no acting past of any kind was put on for a few episodes, and it,turned in to 3 years which was only because the show was canceled,i loved his caractor abd i love JR, what a great american hero and actor and now dancer he is,love you JR you go man

Clayton Resident

November 22nd, 2011
11:07 am

Loved JR on All My Children! Normally I don’t watch the entire season of DWTS but I did this time and voted for JR every week online and on the telephone. Had no problems getting through which worried me a bit, hopefully the military folks voted for JR to give him the extra edge over Kardashian, since his sisters have been posting his number on twitter all these weeks to keep him in it.

Although I’m not a Kardashian fan he did pretty good over the last few weeks as has Ricky. The best 3 stars are in the finals, my choice for the mirror ball is JR of course but I could live with any one of them winning.


November 22nd, 2011
11:09 am

I really want JR to win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


November 22nd, 2011
11:45 am

This has been the worst series yet for DWTS. None of them actually should win. They need to stop it for awhile as they are “scraping the bottom of the barrel” now. When someone like Nancy Grace gets as far as she did, and the winner may do so because of “sympathy votes”, then it’s time to put a halt to it. Besides, there are lots and lots of people who think it is rigged. That’s not good.


November 22nd, 2011
12:02 pm

JR can dance- he is the winner– regardless


November 22nd, 2011
2:23 pm

I’m with you DaDa, the show is rigged and Ricki Lake will probably win, although it should be JR.


November 22nd, 2011
5:30 pm

I think J.R. should win because he is such an inspiration, has such a great attitude, and has improved throughout the show! Even if he doesn’t win (but I think he will), he’ll still be upbeat about it. People don’t vote for him out of sympathy (as one stated above), they vote because he is a winner all the way around!


November 22nd, 2011
6:02 pm

Every week that I vote for JR, the next time I tried to vote for JR, the line is out of order. However, you can get any other teams number which means you voted for that team.
Any know why this would be so?

Tub of Lard, Nancy Grace

November 22nd, 2011
8:48 pm

Can you believe she was at DWS last night uglifying the show and taking up four seats. She/it just doen’t get it — we don’t want to see her/it again. And thank goodness she/it was replaced on “Swift Justice.” The new judge seems to know some legal principles and just doesn’t decide someone is guilty if a lie detector (it’s inadmissible for a reason) catches deception. Hope Grace is not a member of any bar association — she really doesn’t know anything about the law. Did she really graduate from law school!

Lady Di

November 22nd, 2011
10:53 pm

If Rob wins I will never watch Dancing with Stars again! I agree with the others that state it is rigged.

ruth barr

November 23rd, 2011
4:14 pm


ruth barr

November 23rd, 2011
4:17 pm

Enter your comments here

K. Rose

November 25th, 2011
5:31 pm