When Rashad Jennings finds that special someone, there’s one very important lady that she’ll need to get along with — his mom.
The 32-year-old Dancing with the Stars champion, who is currently “super single,” has a very close bond with his mother, and assures that whoever he brings home in the future will already have her stamp of approval before she even walks through the door.
“My mom knows me very well and she knows anybody that I give the okay to be around, she’s gotta be okay. My mom, she’s gotten to know me over the years: ‘My son don’t talk to just anybody.’ So she gives the thumbs-up. Whoever comes in the door, she’s already coming in the door with a thumbs up because I brought her,” Jennings tells PEOPLE just days after taking home the coveted Mirrorball Trophy on the DWTS season 24 finale with pro partner Emma Slater.
“My mom is the sweetest. You’re going to love her no matter who you are, so she doesn’t play that much of a role in yes, no, yes, no. But, if you can’t get along with my mom, something’s wrong,” he says with a laugh.
In 2014, just before the start of his first year with the New York Giants, the NFL star and his longtime girlfriend mutually called it quits.
“We went through each other’s growing stages and phases and shared all of those moments with each other: mistakes, happy times, sad times,” says Jennings, who proposed to his ex.
As to why they decided to end their relationship, Jennings admits that “it was an accumulation of stuff” between the former couple, who was on two different pages when it came to their “wants and ambitions.”
Throughout the months following their breakup, the running back remembers feeling “a lot of emptiness.”
Says Jennings, “Luckily, I had work to put me in focus and take all of that, but when I went home, that’s all I could think about.”
“There was a lot of looking in the mirror — because you think you have your life all figured out, especially when it’s with somebody. You start seeing family together, you start making those kind of ambitions, decisions mentally and when that’s kind of taken away, there’s an emptiness,” he recalls.
But reflecting on the past now, although the season of life was “tough” on the duo, they’re both grateful for how things turned out.
“We’re so thankful that it didn’t happen at that moment because life would have looked completely different. You know how you want something when you want it, the way you want it, but it’s just not right? That’s exactly what both of us were doing. We both agreed to that. We both were thankful for it,” says Jennings.
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Since the split nearly three years ago, the NFL free agent says that he’s “been learning about” himself, and in turn has been afforded the ability to pursue the “things that I really want to accomplish in life,” including dedicating time to the Rashad Jennings Foundation.
While Jennings one day hopes to get married, he isn’t in a rush and doesn’t feel any pressure to tie the knot.
“I don’t have a clock at all,” he says. “I feel like I can accomplish a lot more being single, but I know if the right person’s beside me, that statement’s false.”
When it comes to his forever partner, Jennings says he’s “attracted to cuteness over sexy” and hopes to find an “everyday girl.”
“She has to be quirky and spunky, and she has to be able to laugh at herself. I love a goofball!” says Jennings, who also notes that he’s attracted to someone who is ambitious, health-conscious, family-oriented and a believer.
“My heart’s on lock,” admits Jennings, “but I can’t stop it if somebody has the master key.”