Tuesday is Veterans Day and the Pittsburgh Steelers are making sure to honor tackle Alejandro Villanueva, the military veteran on their practice squad who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan as an Army Captain and is currently serving in the Army Reserve. The honoring of Villanueva, however, won’t end Tuesday, according to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
“We acknowledged him [Villanueva] yesterday in our team meeting,” said Tomlin during his Tuesday press conference. “We’ll honor him not only today, but all week. We’ll carry him with us to Tennessee when we play this game this weekend as just a sign or a token of our appreciation for not only the sacrifices that he’s made, but all the service men and women in the history of our country.”
During a Tuesday morning interview on NFL Network’s “NFL AM”, Villanueva talked about his journey from West Point to Pittsburgh in addition to him making the transition from defense to offense now that he’s with the Steelers.
“I think my teammates that I have on the offensive line are outstanding and especially Coach [Mike] Munchak, a Hall of Famer. He’s definitely teaching me the way,” said Villanueva, who was signed originally as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles to play on the defensive line. “I appreciate Coach Tomlin for giving me a chance to develop my game.”
When Villanueva played for Army, he spent time at the tight end and wide receiver positions in addition to playing tackle. During his Tuesday interview, however, he said that his days of catching a football are likely over for good.
“I’ve bulked up to about 330 right now, so I think all of those dreams of catching touchdowns and running routes are pretty much over,” he said. “I’m making the transition and getting a lot of reps, and practice squad is exactly what I needed and I’ll try to make my case next year during training camp.”
Remember, Villanueva is 6’9″ and now that he’s bulked up to 330 pounds, you can’t help but get excited about his future potential. There’s no guarantee that Villanueva will ever play a snap in the NFL, but I certainly wouldn’t bet against a player with his character, size, and military work ethic.
At some point later on in the season, the Steelers might want to think about promoting Villanueva to their 53 man roster in order to protect him from being poached off of the practice squad by a team that’s out of the playoff race. Once the team gets past their bye week, they might have an extra roster spot to play with if the injured players can get back healthy.
More than anything else, it’s great to see the Steelers honoring Villanueva in the manner that they are. As a veteran, he certainly deserves that.