He’s six foot nine, 340 pounds. Mike Tomlin once noticed Alejandro Villanueva for that. Now, it’s business as usual.
During his Tuesday press conference, Tomlin recounted the first time he saw Villanueva in a football uniform.
“We were playing Philadelphia last year in the preseason and I looked across the field during the anthem and there’s a guy standing over there about a head taller than everybody else, saluting during the anthem. It kind of got my attention. I wanted to know about this enormous human being over there saluting.”
It’s a great story and Tomlin quickly got to find out about Villanueva. The team signed him to the practice squad for the start of the 2014 season. There was still one decision to make – where would he play? He has experience as an offensive tackle, wide receiver, tight end, and defensive end. Tomlin also explained the decision.
“He had the frame of a tackle. He had a tackle background. We thought it was worth our time to take a shot at it, and he’s proven it was worth our time.”
His dedication and work ethic has, to Tomlin, unsurprisingly transformed himself into an NFL linemen.
“I’m not shocked by anything Al does. He’s a unique man. He’s a talented man, he’s a sharp guy. He’s a gifted athlete. I think he’s capable doing anything he puts his mind to. I mean, he played wide receiver his last year at West Point.”
Villanueva made the opening day roster this year and will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. He’ll have a big test in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston who have combined for five sacks on the season.