Following a remarkable career path that saw him transform from the battlefield as an Army Ranger and a wide receiver at West Point, into a standout starting left tackle with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Alejandro Villanueva will add another accolade to his impressive resume.
After retiring from the NFL this offseason following six seasons with Pittsburgh and one season with the Baltimore Ravens, Villanueva will receive the 2023 Hula Bowl Trailblazer Award, presented by the Hula Bowl, according to an article via nfldraftdiamonds.com. Villanueva was selected for his “amazing sacrifice and service as a decorated member of our Armed Forces, as well as a terrific football player,” according to NFL Draft Diamonds.
Last year, the 2022 Hula Bowl Trailblazer Award was presented to the first female scout in the NFL in Connie Carberg.
The 2023 Hula Bowl will be held in Orlando at the University of Central Florida’s Bounce House Stadium on January 14, 2023.
Villanueva’s career path is rather remarkable. Previously a receiver at West Point with the Army Black Knights, Villanueva eventually transformed into a defensive lineman, first with the Philadelphia Eagles, before then landing with the Steelers and converting into an offensive lineman, going on an impressive six-year run, starting 90 of 96 games in the black and gold, earning trips to the Pro Bowl in 2017 and 2018.
One he landed in Pittsburgh, Villanueva really found his footing in the NFL under Hall of Fame lineman and then-Steelers’ offensive line coach Mike Munchak. Villanueva saw his first action in 2015 subbing in for the injured Kelvin Beachum, who tore his ACL against the Arizona Cardinals. Villanueva then made his first start the next week against the Kansas City Chiefs and never looked back, never missing a game in his career.
Prior to his career on the gridiron, Villanueva served in the Army as a Ranger, going on three tours of duty in Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star for rescuing injured soldiers during one firefight. During his time in Pittsburgh, Villanueva also graduated from Carnegie Mellon Business School, completing his degree while holding down a full-time role as an NFL player.