The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed a veteran player to their practice squad — a war veteran.
Alejandro “Ali” Villanueva, a West Point graduate who spent three tours of duty with the Army in Afghanistan, has been added to the team’s practice squad. The 26-year-old, 6-foot-9 Villanueva had quite a resume at West Point, where he played multiple positions on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Originally recruited as a tight end, Villanueva was moved to defensive lineman his freshman year, though spent most of his time on special teams. In his sophomore year Villanueva was moved to offensive line, and by his junior year he was a full-time starter at left tackle.
But his senior year saw more changes. Coaches converted Alejandro Villanueva to a 290-pound wide receiver, with the Army football program billing him as one of the biggest players in college football.
“Already touted as the tallest football player in the country, Villanueva completed the transformation from being an offensive lineman for the past two years, to running routes on the field with the starting offense last Saturday night,” the college noted.
Villanueva had an even more impressive stint in the Army, where he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for valor.
Alejandro Villanueva was originally signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in May but was cut August 23. The Pittsburgh Steelers have picked him up to bolster their depth on the offensive line.
Players on the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad earn $6,300 per week. Others added include two draft picks, cornerback Shaquille Richardson and tight end Rob Blanchflower. The Steelers also added safety Ross Ventrone, defensive linemen Nick Williams and Josh Mauro, halfback Josh Harris and outside linebacker Howard Jones.
But as Alejandro Villanueva prepares to join the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad, he still has obligations to the United States Army. Though he recently left active duty, he remains a member of the U.S. Army Rangers reserve unit, where this year he was promoted to the rank of captain.