Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Steelers / Karl Roser
Alejandro Villanueva’s massive weight gain has paid off — he has earned a spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster.
The news of him making the 2015-16 Pittsburgh Steelers roster as a offensive lineman follows Villanueva’s yearlong dedication to making it in the NFL, which began with his tryouts as a defensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014. Though he failed twice to make the Eagle final roster, it was only a minor setback on his journey to ultimately becoming a Steeler.
At 6-foot-9, 340 pounds, the former Army Ranger combat veteran officially making the 53-man squad is significant. Villanueva put on nearly 100 pounds since exiting the military and trying out for the Eagles, crediting his workout plan and his wife’s cooking. By any measure, his weight gain is a testament to his dedication — and it’s a big factor in why he became such a powerful force on the field.
The Pittsburgh Steelers signed him to their practice squad last August, where he cycled through a few different positions. He played in five preseason games with the Steelers this year, earning a quality amount of playing time and, ultimately, a spot on the team.
His is a story that came full-circle.
Alejandro Villanueva is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he was offensive captain on the Black Knights, leading the team in catches (34), yards (522) and touchdowns (5). He served with the 10th Mountain Division and was deployed in Afghanistan for 12 months, where he earned a Bronze Star Medal for Valor as a rifle platoon leader for moving forward under enemy fire to pull his wounded soldiers from an isolated position.
Upon his return to the states, he was assigned as the company executive officer.
In November 2013, Villanueva volunteered for the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program and served with 1st Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. As a Ranger, he served as a plans officer, a rifle platoon leader and a company executive officer. He deployed to Afghanistan two more times for a total of eight months.
Now, he’ll test his mettle in the Iron City, on the field.
To read more about Alejandro Villanueva, check out: Former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva Gains 100 Pounds to Keep NFL Dream Alive and U.S. Army Ranger Starts Football Career with the Eagles