Hines Ward is still pinching himself!
Despite some seriously stiff competition (from fellow finalist Chelsea Kane and Kirstie Alley) the NFL pro was crowned the season-12 winner on Dancing with the Stars on Tuesday night.
Backstage, the triumphant Pittsburgh Steelers player, 35, confessed to Us Weekly that he thought he'd grab second place to fan fave Alley, 60.
"[When] I heard my name...I looked over at Kirstie and I was like, 'Oh geez.' Everybody loves Kirstie!" Ward said. "So it was the fans that carried me through and I couldn't believe it!"
(Kane and partner Mark Ballas landed in third place.)
Despite his consistently high-to-perfect scores with pro partner Kym Johnson (who has been nursing a scary neck injury from two weeks ago), Ward insisted he didn't feel like the presumed winner going into the results show. "Anyone in this final deserved the trophy tonight. I'm not going to apologize for winning, but..."
The gridiron champ already has the perfect place picked out for his mirror ball trophy: "Right next to the MVP trophy in my house!"
Plus, he'll be importing his brand-new dancing skills on the field, too."I'll be doing a tribute to Kym everytime I score a touchdown! I'll incorporate a Dancing with the Stars routine every time I'm in the endzone," Ward gushed.
And while much has been made of runner-up Kirstie Alley's dramatic DWTS weight-loss, Ward has unintentionally slimmed down on the show, too.
"It's grueling!" he warned future contestants. "It's a lot of hard work. So I'd tell people be prepared to work your butt off. And you will lose weight!"
Ward himself lost "about 15 pounds!" he said.