Cheryl Burke, <EM>Dancing with the Stars</EM> Cheryl Burke, Dancing with the Stars

If anyone had told me a year ago today that I would be standing on Stage 46 at the CBS studios vying for my second championship on ABC's Dancing with the Stars, I would have asked them what on earth they'd been smoking!

You can't imagine how exciting and what a whirlwind these last few weeks have been. Emmitt Smith and I have traveled a long road to get here — most of it via airplane! We were the only team that traveled to and from Los Angeles each week, back and forth from Emmitt's hometown of Dallas. (Not sure if you're aware, but he's a bit of a hero there, what with his three Super Bowl championships for the Cowboys and all.) I got the chance to experience the graciousness of Dallas' citizens, and let me tell you, when that city supports you, they really support you! But we were also able to meet people in other places — San Francisco, Philadelphia, Virginia, Arizona, New York and Los Angeles — all of which was such an amazing experience. I've been involved in ballroom dancing since I was 4 years old, and to interact with people who now love it as much as I do… it's a feeling that is indescribable!

When I got the call back in August from the producers of DWTS and they told me I was moving to Dallas to be partnered with Emmitt Smith, I must admit I had no idea who he was. The name sounded familiar, but I still had to Google him to get the lowdown, and let me tell you, the information you can find on the Internet about Emmitt in no way prepares you for meeting him in the flesh. 

First and foremost, Emmitt is a gentleman and a true champion. He understands commitment and dedication, and he knows that you always have to bring your A-game if you expect a shot in heck at winning. And he's willing to take risks — I'm sure that he got some ribbing from his football buddies, especially with the nickname Twinkle Toes — yet he showed up every day willing to let me tell him he was doing something wrong, willing to let me show him the proper way of holding his arms and bending his knees and how to hold his head up straight. It's an odd feeling being 22 years old and telling the greatest running back of all time that he doesn't stand up straight. Emmitt took all of the criticism with graciousness and humility, because he understands that you need to be the best you can be before you can have a shot at competing for the championship. 

Emmitt and I are both Tauruses. We are both strong-willed and strong-minded. We say what we mean and mean what we say. In fact, in the beginning we teased each other about who was the Big Bull and who was the Little Bull. (Don't listen to whatever you hear from Emmitt — I was always Big Bull. But I humored him every now and again and let him think he was Big Bull.) Now I look at us as peers. Emmitt has become one of the dearest people in my life — he's an amazing person, and he's the big brother I never had. He busts on me all the time and teases me about boys and everything else a 22-year-old girl goes through. But most importantly, I am proud to call him my friend.

Emmitt and I have so much fun on the dance floor. People have said we have great chemistry, and I think that's because we have so much respect for one another. We can let loose when we dance because we trust each other so much. And honestly, who can help but smile and feel exhilarated when Emmitt flashes those pearly whites? Doesn't he have the best smile in the world? It's infectious!

During the past few months, we've spent every Monday at the studio, working on camera blocking, rehearsing, doing final costume fittings, and chatting with the other dancers. As the weeks have gone by, we've all grown closer and closer, and it gets harder and harder to say goodbye to the next couple who has to leave. This past Wednesday was the toughest yet; Joey Lawrence is such an amazing human being, such a kind soul. And Edyta Sliwinska... a truly classy lady. Emmitt and I had such conflicting emotions about staying — we were happy to be in the finals but so sad for Joey and Edyta. Each week they were perfection, and we're sad to see them go.

After Wednesday's results show, Emmitt and I were given our music for the finale. We're going to dance our favorite dance of the season again, we're going to do a dance to the same song as the other couple in the finals — Mario Lopez and Karina Smirnoff — and we get to do a freestyle dance. (We have something fun planned for this one! Some of you might remember the dance that Drew Lachey and I did last season, "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.") I'm hoping that everyone — and the judges — will love it, it's going to be a real wow of a dance! 

After getting our music, we then go straight into rehearsal. Most Wednesday nights, after all the press and costume meetings and interviews are done, I'm either in my apartment or at a rehearsal hall laying down the choreography for the next week's dances; it tends to be rather late before I can get started, but I usually can choreograph both dances by 2 am. I'm not sure if you all know this, but each dancer is responsible for their own choreography — we don't get any outside help, and it's a task to make sure that each and every dance is original and up to the expectations of the crowds and the judges. I like to design our dances around Emmitt's strengths and incorporate moves that I know he'll enjoy doing and that the audience wants to see.

Tuesdays are generally hectic days over at DWTS, and I'm sure this Tuesday will be no different. We have early call times and go into hair and makeup, then we talk about any final changes we need to make to the routines. We break for lunch, and then we go into our full dress rehearsal. This is usually the first time we get to see the other dances and size up the competition. This is also when wardrobe gets to see their costumes in action for the first time. Often there is a lot of tweaking that happens after they see how a costume moves on the dancer's body or what it shows and if it shows too much. After that is over — it usually takes about an hour — we then have another break. This is when the mayhem begins: We get makeup and hair touchups, the jitters start to set in, and the costumes get their final adjustments — often while we're still wearing them!

Wednesday is the results show and my least favorite day of the week. Not knowing who is getting eliminated and thinking it could be you is incredibly stressful. There is an air of tenseness that settles over the studio. It's a much more emotional day than Tuesdays are. Emmitt always tries to make sure I'm calm and relaxed, and I always try not to let him see how nervous I am — I convince him that I'm calm and he lets me believe he can't tell I'm nervous. It's comical, really.

We're now intensely preparing for Tuesday. We want to win that mirrored-ball trophy, and we want to have fun and wow the audience while doing it. I really hope you enjoy what we have prepared for you!

See you Tuesday, we're bringing our A-game, and we hope you enjoy it!