Football player turns down scholarships to dance

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    By Seth Lewis

    Judd Gines glides across the dance floor with a gazelle’s grace. His Spandex-tight black leggings nearly reach his rib cage, making him look a foot taller than his already ominous 6-foot-4 frame.

    It’s like taking a tight end’s body and adding Fred Astaire’s feet.

    A fitting description for Gines, a BYU freshman who passed up football scholarship offers coming out of Provo High School last spring to pursue his ballroom dancing dreams.

    “I miss football, but I don’t regret the choice I’ve made at all,” he said.

    If only Gines, 18, could have envisioned this scene 10 years ago. Here he is, sitting on a couch in Richards Building, sweat pooling on his forehead as if he had just come out of two-a-day practice.

    Three days a week he has dance classes from 7 a.m. until noon. And he couldn’t be happier.

    He’s talking about The Moment — that epiphanistic slice of time when dance forever surpassed football in his mind.

    It was the spring of 1999 at the DanceSport Youth Standard Championships in the Marriott Center, and Gines twirled with partner Natalie Wakefield. The pair both won youth national titles at that competition — they repeated again last March — but something more happened.

    “To me, it turned into an art,” Gines said. “It wasn’t all just about doing the steps, but making them flow, and making them look good on the floor.”

    Art? Flow? This from the same guy who inhaled football as a child, who couldn’t watch enough football or yell loud enough at games. This from the same guy whose brother Jeremy played at Snow College and brother Joel is the fourth-string quarterback at Utah.

    This isn’t to say he’s forgotten football completely.

    He still goes to an occasional Provo High game, and the result is often sickening.

    “I go through withdrawls and denial,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to watch the kids in my position, especially since I know I could’ve gone on and played.”

    And maybe that’s the hardest thing — knowing. Knowing he had scholarship offers to play tight end at Weber State or Snow or Dixie. Knowing he could have lived his childhood fantasies.

    “I think he should’ve gone to play football myself,” said Linda Wakefield, co-director of BYU’s Ballroom Dance Company. “But I know he loves to dance. He’s kind of following his heart’s dream.”

    A dream he said he hopes will take him to a degree in ballroom dance and ultimately a place on the professional dance landscape.

    Of course, this wasn’t an easy aspiration for a budding football player to have, particularly with gridiron-geared brothers.

    “They teased me like no other,” Gines said. “I heard it all: ‘Ballerina,’ ‘Twinkle Toes.’ It carried on for the first three years, but after that they came to appreciate it.”

    Some of his Provo teammates certainly didn’t, though.

    “They thought I was crazy,” Gines said. “They thought it was a dumb decision. But they don’t understand. They haven’t done it, so they don’t know how it is.”

    For Gines, the thrill of dance far exceeds anything he knew as an All-Region tight end at Provo.

    “When you do everything correctly the feeling is amazing. It’s almost effortless. It makes something incredible,” he said.

    Gines’ dancing dreams began as an eighth-grader at Dixie Middle School, where he took a social dance class. By his own admission, he was a bumbling mess, botching counts and steps.

    Still, he liked the challenge of it all, and as a freshman at Provo the next year, he joined the BYU Youth Ballroom dance squad.

    The next year, he grew a foot, bulging into the 215-pound frame he played football in.

    Down to 190 pounds, but still bigger than most dancers — Gines size has become more of a hindrance as he ascends ballroom dance echelons.

    “He’s definitely on the big end,” Wakefield said.

    Gines plans to serve a mission after his freshman year. What happens after that — size-wise and otherwise — will determine the direction of his dancing pursuits.

    “He’s certainly not the best one here, but he’s doing well,” Wakefield said. “I don’t know what will happen when he comes back. A lot of times, missionaries come back and have a lot of other perspectives on life.”

    For now, Judd Gines considers dancing an art, and he’s blissfully turning out a fresca all his own.

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