‘DWTS’: Cheryl Burke Almost Fell for Her Former Partner but ‘Knew I Would Never Be the Only Girl in His Life’

Cheryl Burke of Dancing With the Stars has been paired with some of the show’s most popular celebrities. Winning the Mirrorball trophy two times with contestants Drew Lachey and Emmitt Smith, Burke has taught famous figures from sports and entertainment how to master their moves on the dance floor.

While the rumor mill often churns out stories of behind-the-scenes romances on DWTS, the gossip is usually unverified. Yet in season 10, Burke revealed the speculation of her getting close with her new partner was “with due cause.”

Cheryl Burke of 'Dancing With the Stars'
Cheryl Burke of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ | Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Cheryl Burke and Chad Ochocinco become season 10 partners on ‘DWTS’

In season 10, Burke was coupled with NFL pro Chad Ochocinco (who had changed his name from Chad Johnson in 2008 – then changed back again in 2012). With a reputation for being gregarious and larger than life, Ochocinco’s quiet demeanor surprised Burke when she met him for the first time.

“On the first day, Chad was very quiet,” Burke wrote in her 2011 memoir Dancing Lessons. “During a break I told him that I had expected him to be a bit more talkative. He smiled – he has the greatest smile in the world – and acknowledged that he was nervous to be doing the show.”

When their training was moved to Miami, Ochocinco began to come out of his shell. As a resident, the NFL player knew the city well and took Burke on a tour of the highlights. The two began to grow closer throughout the process, sparking rumors.

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“Because Chad is so good-looking and fun and single, people assumed that we’d be a perfect match – and not just on the dance floor,” the DWTS pro recalled. “We had been working together only a couple of weeks when my publicist, Susan, got calls asking if Chad and I were an item. The rumor mill was getting fired up – and this time, with due cause.”

‘DWTS’ couple got close off the dance floor

During their several weeks in Miami, Burke and Ochocinco’s friendship began growing into something more. The NFL player often showed his affection for Burke by lavishing her with elaborate jewelry, though she wasn’t interested in gifts. The DWTS star’s main concern was knowing Ochocinco wasn’t a one-woman man.

“He was always kind, but I knew I would never be the only girl in his life,” Burke revealed, and explained her doubts with the athlete. “‘What happens if we start dating and I get attached to you – and then you have other women you want to see?'”

While Burke was drawn to Ochocinco, she didn’t want to be one of many women in his life.

“Although Chad was wooing me, I had to resist because, ultimately, he doesn’t believe in relationships,” the pro dancer wrote. “As much as I liked him, I couldn’t let myself fall for him, because I knew that there would always be somebody else.”

Post-‘DWTS’ status

Their mutual attraction paired with Burke’s resistance to get involved with Ochocinco sometimes caused tension behind the scenes.

“All of this was going on during season 10 while I was teaching Chad how to dance,” Burke shared. “It made for an interesting mix. There were times we had a blast in rehearsals and laughed our heads off, then there were times we were barely speaking. It was a roller-coaster ride of sorts.”

Ultimately, the pair finished in fourth place in the DWTS competition, and parted as friends.

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“I will always have a soft spot for Chad in my heart, and I know that he feels the same way about me,” Burke wrote. “I found myself drawn to this sweet, kindhearted man, and he found himself drawn to my self-awareness and independence. … We earned each other’s trust and respect, andI am certain we will always be friends.”

[Correction: An earlier version mistakenly said Burke was a three-time champ.]