Every November 11, Veterans Day is celebrated in the United States, to honor those who have served in the US Armed Forces. Today we celebrate a veteran who just hung up his cleats in the NFL.
One of those veterans and heroes is Alexander Villanuevawho with an imposing height of 6 feet 10 inches made his rivals tremble on the grid.
The two-time Pro Bowl player retired from the NFL this year after seven seasons in the league. He played six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers before signing with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021.
But the Army will always be his first love. Villanueva undoubtedly learned about the pride and honor of military service at home.
His father, Ignacio Villanueva, served in the Spanish navy and learned to fly planes in the United States. Villanueva would be born during one of those long stays in the US; his mother, Matile Martín, is also Spanish.
Villanueva, the oldest of four children (two boys and two girls), grew up in Spain playing mostly rugby. In fact, his brother Iñaki Villanueva, 31, is a rugby 7 player with the Spanish national team.
Villanueva attended high school in Belgium, where he began playing American football. One of his high school friends was recruited by the Army Black Knights of West Point in the US They also contacted Villanueva.
The Hispanic-American would play three positions at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he graduated in 2010: left tackle, defensive lineman and wide receiver.
Although he was not drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft, he received a tryout with the Cincinnati Bengals as a tight end, but did not make the team.
Villanueva then opted for military service.
Between 2010 and 2015, Villanueva served with the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division and 75th Ranger Regiment and deployed three times to Afghanistan. He would rise to the rank of captain.
As a result of his actions during the first deployment, as a rifle platoon leader, he received a high decoration, the Bronze Star for Valor, for rescuing wounded soldiers under enemy fire.
In an interview with nfl.com for Hispanic Heritage Month 2016, Villanueva had this to say about his deployments, “One of the things I liked most about spending time in Afghanistan is not so much the leadership but the learning I had. when I was there.
“You really learn who you are as a man. You really learn a lot about life. You know, I went there as a kid, I came out as a man,” he added.
In 2014, he tried out and was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, who later released him. However, he impressed Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and the rest is history. He played six seasons with Pittsburgh.
After starting every game for the Ravens in 2021, OT Alejandro Villanueva has decided to retire after a seven-year NFL career.https://t.co/Pq2txd0aev
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) March 9, 2022
Villanueva was a left tackle in the NFL. He appeared in 113 games throughout his career, starting 107 of them, including all in his only season with the Ravens in 2021. He would go on to be selected to the 2017 and 2018 Pro Bowl.
With the dedication that characterizes him, during his time as a professional player he also obtained his Business Degree.
He always compared the integrity and camaraderie of the NFL to that of military service, but the league fell short in his eyes.
Last March, just after announcing his retirement, Villanueva underscored the love of his life in an interview with the Cook & Joe Show radio show on station 93.7 The Fan, revealing, “I’m not going to miss football in Absolutely. Football was just, how do I transition out of the military? The military is what I always miss.”
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Alejandro Villanueva: Pro Bowl in the NFL and Bronze Star in the Army