Pittsburgh Steelers fans grew mixed on their assessment of his play over the years, but nobody has ever questioned former left tackle Alejandro Villanueva’s character. A decorated war veteran whose every interview exposes an individual whose perspective spans far beyond the football field, he has always carried himself as a thoughtful and quiet leader—unless he’s taking beer baths shirtless at a Penguins game.
The Baltimore Ravens, though, are his new home, and he’s got a new spot at right tackle, but he has already shown himself to be the only person he could ever be: Himself. The team’s official Twitter account featured a short video of Villanueva addressing his new peers, which is hard not to appreciate, beyond the color of the jersey.
You’ve got to love the game. If you want to overcome injuries, the long season we’ve got ahead, the disappointments, the tough moments in your career when you get cut, picked up, free agency, it all boils down to how much you love the game of football. And so I ask of everyone to do a little bit of thinking in terms of, what has the game given you in your life? And I know for me, it’s been incredibly special. I came to this country when I was 17 years old, and I had nothing, other than this football team that taught me absolutely everything about America. How many other places in the world can you have a group like this; as diverse, from different places in the United States, all for the common goal? That’s unbelievable. I love being a warrior. I love being a warrior with you guys.
— NFL (@NFL) August 18, 2021
He then broke down the huddle following a clearly well-accepted speech, in what, frankly, just reminds me of how many similarities there are between the Steelers and the Ravens. It’s no surprise that he’s been readily embraced over there, and that he’s taken to them as well, as somebody who sees beyond the game, and into what it actually means from a global perspective.
Last week, Villanueva talked to reporters about what it’s been like to go from the Steelers to the Ravens, saying that it was “crazy to play for another franchise after being so comfortable in Pittsburgh”, but the Ravens have made him feel comfortable.
The son of a Spanish Naval officer, Villanueva was born on a Naval base in Mississippi in 1988, but he spent much of his adolescence living in Spain, as well as Belgium, and it was in the latter country where he began to play football. That was where he was recruited to play for Army.
He would eventually play defensive end, tackle, and wide receiver for Army after originally being scouted to play tight end. He went undrafted in 2010, and did not see a single offer until 2014 after multiple failed tryouts between tours of duty in the Army, before finally connecting with the Steelers.