The Thanksgiving holiday may have come and gone in the blink of an eye, but that doesn’t mean we should neglect our duty to thank the people who deserve it most every day. That sentiment especially rings true for those who have served honorably in the United States military, and the Pittsburgh Steelers happen to have one of our nation’s veterans starting at left tackle.
Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva served three tours in Afghanistan as a Captain in the U.S. Army, in which he was an Army Ranger and was later awarded the Bronze Star for valor. The 6-foot-9, 320-pounder happens to be one heck of an athlete as well, and he showcased it on a fake field goal touchdown against the Denver Broncos.
Villanueva’s path to the NFL is an incredible story that started during his time playing college football for the Army Black Knights. This massive man played offensive line, defensive end, tight end and wide receiver for Army in college, where he recorded 34 catches for 522 yards and five touchdowns during the 2009 season.
He may have been a Pro Bowl selection in 2017 as an offensive tackle, but this Army veteran can do it all.
During the Steelers’ 24-17 loss against Denver, the team struggled to find an offensive rhythm early in the game. With only three seconds remaining in the first half, Pittsburgh lined up for a short field goal attempt. They surprised everyone when Pro Bowl kicker Chris Boswell caught the snap, rolled right, and found Villanueva in the end zone.
In a game where JuJu Smith-Schuster caught a 97-yard touchdown, Villanueva’s highlight trumps every other play that day.
Villanueva, a 30-year-old mountain of a man who was born on Naval Air Station Meridian in Mississippi, is the third person of Spanish descent to play in the National Football League. After getting a contract offer to play defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014 following a regional showcase workout, he was cut prior to the start of the regular season.
However, Villanueva’s athleticism and size caught the eye of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin during the preseason that year. The Steelers signed him just a few weeks later to their practice squad and have transformed him into one of the best left tackles in the NFL today.
Villanueva’s started every regular season game for the Steelers since the beginning of the 2016 season, and he leads all offensive tackles in the AFC Pro Bowl vote this year.
As you’d expect, Villanueva celebrated his first career touchdown with arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver, teammate Antonio Brown, in hilarious style.
Villanueva is on track for his second Pro Bowl selection during the 2018 season protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside, and there’s no one else Big Ben would rather have watching his back than maybe the only person on the offense bigger than he is.
It’s an awesome career highlight for somebody who’s given so much in service to his country, and who is becoming a household names when people talk about the best offensive linemen in the NFL today.