Alejandro Villanueva spent the past four years defending his country in the U.S. Army. Villanueva will now spend this offseason trying to make the Philadelphia Eagles’ 53-man roster.
Philadelphia announced the signing of Villanueva, a U.S. Army Ranger, on Monday. Villanueva served three tours in Afghanistan and was promoted to captain earlier this month.
The Eagles scouted Villanueva at the recent super regional combine in Detroit, a supplement to the NFL’s national scouting combine. Players who impressed at an NFL regional combine were invited to attend the NFL super regional combine to display their talents in front of NFL team scouts and player personnel directors.
Villanueva (6-foot-9, 277 pounds) last played football in 2009 for Army as a wide receiver after converting to that position before his senior season. The former offensive captain led the team with 34 receptions for 522 yards and five touchdowns. The Eagles signed him to play on their defensive line.
Here is a description of his military career (via the team’s website):
Villanueva graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering and was commissioned into the U.S. Army on May 22, 2010, as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry. He then moved to Fort Benning, Ga., to attend the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Basic Airborne Course and the U.S. Army Ranger Course.
Upon completion, he reported to Fort Drum, N.Y., where he served in the 10th Mountain Division. While serving with the 10th Mountain Division, Villanueva deployed to Afghanistan for 12 months as a Rifle Platoon Leader. During his deployment, he earned a Bronze Star Medal for Valor for moving forward under enemy fire to pull his wounded Soldiers from their isolated position. When Villanueva returned from his first deployment to Afghanistan, he was assigned as a Rifle Company Executive Officer.
In November 2013, Villanueva volunteered for the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Assessment and Selection Program and was hired to serve with 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. As a U.S. Army Ranger, he served as a Plans Officer, a Ranger Rifle Platoon Leader and a Ranger Company Executive Officer, and deployed to Afghanistan two more times for a total of eight months.
Villanueva has earned numerous honors for his military service, but the Eagles signed him because of his football potential. He displayed enough athleticism during NFL workouts to receive a contract, and Villanueva’s biggest challenge will be hanging around long enough to participate in training camp.
Philadelphia began its offseason workout program April 21, and organized team activities (OTAs) will occur May 27-29, June 2-3 and June 9-12. The Eagles’ mandatory minicamp will be held June 17-19, the final offseason activity before training camp. If Villanueva performs well, he has a chance to be among the 90 players vying for a roster spot in training camp in late July and August.
Considering the battles Villanueva had during his military career, fighting to make Philadelphia’s roster should be a well-deserved relief.
This article was republished with permission from the author, Anwar Richardson. This article was originally published on the Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports and can be viewed by clicking here.