Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The unusual story of Alejandro Villanueva: West Pointer, Army Ranger Captain, hero... and Pittsburgh Steeler.

Now the starting left tackle for the Steelers.  A warrior's warrior.  A hell of a lot more soldier than I EVER was.

Alejandro Villanueva (American football)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Alejandro Villanueva
Alejandro Villanueva football.jpg
Villanueva as a senior playing for Army

No. 78 Pittsburgh Steelers Position: Offensive Tackle Personal information Date of birth: September 22, 1988 (age 27) Place of birth: Meridian, Mississippi Height: 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) Weight: 320 lb (145 kg) Career information College: Army Undrafted: 2010 Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only Roster status: Active Career NFL statistics as of Week 1, 2015 Games played: 1 Games started: 0 Stats at NFL.com
Alejandro Villanueva
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Emblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service 2010 – present
Rank US military captain's rank.gif Captain
Alejandro "Ali" Villanueva (born September 22, 1988) is an American football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League and a captain in the United States Army, with whom he serves as an Army Ranger. He played college football for the Army Black Knights, being recruited at one position, and playing three others during the course of his career. After serving three tours of duty in Afghanistan, he signed a contract with the Eagles on May 5, 2014, after working out in a regional showcase. He is 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) tall, and signed with the Eagles as a defensive end; he did not make the final cut. Shortly after, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed him to their practice squad as an offensive lineman.


Early life

Villanueva was born on Naval Air Station Meridian in Meridian, Mississippi to Spanish natives; Ignacio Villanueva, a Spanish Naval officer who worked for NATO, and Matilda Martin.[1] Both his mother and father were over 6 feet (1.8 m) tall. Of the family's four children, Alejandro, Paloma, Ignacio and Carmen; Alejandro was the eldest. During his childhood, he lived in Rhode Island, Spain, and Belgium; in Spain, he learned to play rugby, which, for a time, he preferred to football, which he began to play in Belgium.[1] It was while he was attending SHAPE High School in Casteau, Belgium when he was recruited to play football.[2] Villanueva's childhood friend whom he'd met at SHAPE HS was recruited to play football for the Army Black Knights; and his friend told the Army coaches about Villanueva.[2] They kept in touch and Villanueva told him that he was considering attending West Point.[2] The following year Villanueva enrolled in West Point.[2]

Football career

College career

Villanueva played college football for the Army Black Knights at several positions including left tackle, defensive lineman, and wide receiver.[3] Though originally recruited as a tight end, he was a defensive end during his freshman season, although he mostly played on special teams. In his sophomore season offensive line coach, John Tice, lobbied to have Villanueva converted to an offensive tackle which succeeded near the end of his sophomore year. By his junior season, he started every game at left tackle. Voted a team captain before his senior year, he reluctantly converted once more to become a 290 pounds (130 kg) wide receiver; a feature story in the Army football program read, "Already touted as the tallest football player in the country, Villanueva completed the transformation from being an offensive lineman for the past two years, to running routes on the field with the starting offense last Saturday night."[1] His height, while reported by Army Football in 2009 to be 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 m),[1] was given by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014 as 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m).[4]

Professional career

Villanueva practiced with the Cincinnati Bengals as a tight end but did not make the team and went back into military service.[3] Two years later, he tried to enter the NFL again as a tight end, but this time he practiced with the Chicago Bears. The Philadelphia Eagles signed Villanueva to an undisclosed contract to play as a defensive end on May 5, 2014.[5] His signing marked the second time the Eagles had signed a military veteran in recent years, having previously had Chad Hall, a wide receiver from the Air Force, as a member of the team.[6] Villanueva has said that if he does not make an NFL roster, he plans to serve a fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan.[7] He commented, "I see this as a win-win situation. Obviously, I’m trying to get to a team and contribute. But if I can’t, then I can't wait to get back to the Army and serve in the same manner that I have."[7] During training camp, Villanueva gained 40 pounds (18 kg), noting that he is eating a consistent diet, which juxtaposed his military career insofar as while in the military, he often did not have time or inclination to eat, whereas with the Eagles, he is getting "plenty to eat".[8][9] It was announced on Saturday, August 23 that he was one of fourteen players cut from the team.[10] Shortly after, he was added to the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice squad as an offensive lineman.

Military career

After graduating from the United States Military Academy Villanueva began his military career when he was commissioned into the United States Army on May 22, 2010 as a second lieutenant in the Infantry.[4] Directly after being commissioned he attended various military schools, including the United States Army Infantry School, United States Army Airborne School and Ranger School; all located on Fort Benning, Georgia. After completing the three courses he was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York. It was with the 10th Mountain Division he deployed for the first time; for 12 months to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan as a rifle platoon leader.[4] As a result of his actions during this deployment he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal with "V" device for rescuing wounded soldiers while under enemy fire.[4] When he returned from his deployment he was reassigned as a rifle company executive officer.[4]
Villanueva volunteered for the 75th Ranger Regiment's Ranger Orientation Program in 2013.[4] He is assigned to the 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia. His roles within the Battalion have included plans officer, a Ranger rifle platoon leader and Ranger company executive officer.[4]
He has deployed two more times to Afghanistan for a total of eight months between both deployments.[4]


No comments: