Even before Rashad Jennings was crowned a Mirrorball Trophy winner, the 24th Dancing with the Stars champion knew what he wanted to focus on once his time on the reality dancing competition series came to an end — helping kids.
During Tuesday night’s nail-biting live finale, Jennings competed against veteran pro baseball player David Ross and Fifth Harmony member Normani Kordei in the final round of the competition, but it was the NFL running back free agent and his pro partner Emma Slater who were crowned the season’s big winners.
Speaking with PEOPLE prior to his win, Jennings said that he would be pouring his energy into his nonprofit foundation at the wrap of the series.
“I have a foundation that I do so much with kids. I work with so many amazing people and I definitely will do some stuff with the foundation,” the 32-year-old Rashad Jennings Foundation founder told PEOPLE.
As a teen, Jennings was “bullied” and “made fun of a lot.” Now as he reflects on his childhood and teenage years, Jennings understands the significance of a positive example being set for the next generation, and he plans “to move that forward” and “be a voice — continue to be a voice for things I believe in and make a difference.”
In addition to leading efforts with his foundation, which partners with players from all 32 NFL teams to give back to youth through literacy, mentorship and health and fitness programs, he still has his sights set on actively returning to the NFL.
While Jennings may not yet be signed to a team, he continues to train daily and credits his stint on DWTS for helping him get into the “best shape” of his life. “Dance has helped me so much with football. I wish I had known about dancing eight years ago. I would have done it,” said Jennings. “I’m working on my balance like I’ve never done. Awareness like I’ve never done. I’m working on hips and core strength like I’ve never done.”
“I’m hopeful that I’ll be landing somewhere,” said Jennings, who previously played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and New York Giants.
Although fans will no longer see him each week in the ballroom his Dancing journey is not yet over: Jennings will dance on the upcoming Dancing with the Stars: Live! — Hot Summer Nights tour. And in the not-too-distant future he wants to return to Hollywood — but in a different on-screen capacity.
“If I could write the script, I would do all those things: get picked up by a team, win the Super Bowl and one day somebody in Hollywood will give me a chance for acting,” he said.