The former contestant also says, "I don't blame the audience" for wishing Brooke Burke-Charvet was still there

By Michael Fleeman
February 24, 2014 07:00 PM
Mike Coppola/Getty

Four years after her emotional exit from Dancing with the Stars, Erin Andrews will be strapping on her high heels again and returning to the ballroom, this time as a co-host, replacing Brooke Burke-Charvet.

In an exclusive interview, the sports reporter, 35, tells PEOPLE she knows it’s going to be an adjustment – both for her and for those who are fans of Burke-Charvet.

“I don’t blame the audience at all. How could you?” she says. “I know that I have huge shoes to fill. I’m a fan of Brooke. She was very wonderful toward me in my season. She was so caring and so fantastic. I can only hope I can emulate somebody like that and use her for guidance.”

Andrews will approach the ballroom interviews the same way she does for Fox Sports – “I don’t think I can do anything but be myself,” she says – even if it means ditching the jeans and flats she wears on the sidelines for more glamorous garb.

As a style role model, she looks to Cat Deeley of So You Think You Can Dance, where Andrews was once a guest judge.

“She brings a hipness. She brings a funkiness,” says Andrews. “And I also respect that there is a sort of traditional sense when it comes to the ballroom. I hope to bring a Cat Deeley kind of vibe and also respect all of the traditions of the ballroom.”

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for Andrews, whose sideline interview during the NFL playoffs with the Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman made headlines. She then plunged into Super Bowl work, while behind the scenes talking to ABC about the Dancing with the Stars job.

“When they approached me, I really didn’t even know if it was going to be possible because I’m fully committed to Fox Sports. That’s my love,” she said.

RELATED: Erin Andrews: I Have ‘HUGE Shoes to Fill’ at DWTS

But some understanding bosses and private talks with Michael Strahan – who both co-hosts the morning show Live! With Michael and Kelly and appears on Fox Sports’ football show – showed that she could juggle both jobs.

“I feel great,” she says. “I was texting with Maksim, my old partner. He was saying, ‘Wow, it’s coming full circle for you.’ ”

Andrews has remained close to her pro partner Chmerkovskiy over the years, along with others from Season 10.

“It obviously helps that I was a contestant on the show,” she says. “Even though I made it to the finals, I wasn’t that great. It was so difficult. I broke my foot, I hurt my back. I fought with Maks every other day. I was trying to be sexy when all I wanted to do is be the tomboy. I know what they’re going through.”

She adds: Dancing has always been a family. I call it the Dancing with the Stars mafia. Once you’re in that mafia, you’re always in. It’s always so much of your life. I’m just excited to be coming home.”

RELATED: Brooke Burke-Charvet on Losing DWTS Gig: ‘Change Is a Positive Thing’