Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva excels at protection and this goes far beyond the football field.
Prior to his NFL career Villanueva was an Army Ranger who spent three tours of duty in Afghanistan, where he earned a number of commendations, including a Bronze Star.
The left tackle grew up on a Naval Base in Spain and it gave him the inspiration to serve his country overseas. Villanueva began the process by enrolling at West Point where he was a standout on the football team. Despite being 6 ft. 9 in., his versatility was a key for the Black Knights, as he played defensive tackle, wide receiver and offensive line.
Upon leaving West Point, Villanueva became a commissioned officer and was eventually deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. He earned his Bronze Star by pulling fellow soldiers to safety under enemy fire.
Villanueva’s return to civilian life led him back to the football field where he would earn a spot with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has started every game at left tackle this season, where he is tasked with protecting Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside, of course.
With football now providing a more comfortable life for Villanueva, he still maintains a true Ranger mentality.
“I actually remember the first time I walked out of the tunnel saying to myself, as cool as this is, stepping out of a Chinook in the middle of the night with your men en route to do a mission is a lot better than this.”