It seems to me that it’s a widely-held opinion that Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva is a good interview. The Steelers have already put up a couple of pieces about him via interview segments, and Teresa Varley came at us with another one yesterday.
This time, the former Army Ranger talked about his experiences working with other organizations and how he has found that to differ with what he has experienced during his three seasons in Pittsburgh. Probably not really a spoiler alert, but he sees some pretty substantial differences.
I tend to value Villanueva’s views on more macroscopic views pertaining to football because in many ways he is approaching it not just as an outside, but as a person who is experiencing much of it at a more mature stage later on in life.
Everybody reading this already knows by now that he didn’t make a team coming out of college. He had a trying as a tight end with the Bengals in 2010 that year he graduated, but he wasn’t signed, and he went out for his first deployment after that. A couple of years later, he had another fruitless tryout with the Bears.
Flash forward to 2014 and Villanueva works out at a regional combine. The Eagles take notice of him and give him a chance at defensive end. He makes it through training camp, plays against the Steelers, but doesn’t get signed to the 53-man roster. Pittsburgh takes interests and signs him to the practice squad, moving him to tackle. The rest is history.
But boy did that years-long journey shape how he sees things. “It’s very hard for me to trust someone when it comes to the NFL”, he told Varley, saying that “so many organizations have led me to believe I would make the team and then I got cut”. The candidate organizations are limited to three: Cincinnati, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
He saw pretty on that Pittsburgh was different. “This organization is special”, in his estimation. He talked about the Steelers’ stability and ownership “that is present in everybody’s lives”, how he would see the Rooneys around the facility or at mass and would always stop to say hello.
“That means a lot”, he said. “That means I mean something to the Steelers”. More than he meant elsewhere. “In other organizations, they might know who you are. They might have heard of you, but they don’t value you as a person”.
The Steelers, he said, “care about me not as a veteran, not as a football player, not as an MBA candidate. They care about me as a person”. I can’t tell you how many times it’s talked about how the Rooneys run their team as a family, but that’s really where everything starts.
“Once you have that trust in the organization”, Villanueva said, “the organization tries to get the best out of you and that is what they are doing”. And that inspires players to give their best to the organization, to their second family.