After spending his last four years as a U.S. Army Ranger, Alejandro Villanueva is getting his chance in the NFL.
The Philadelphia Eagles signed the 6-foot-9, 277-pound former U.S. Army Captain to a rookie free-agent contract Monday, the team announced.
Villanueva, who served three tours in Afghanistan, last played football in 2009 as a wide receiver for Army, when he led the Black Knights with 34 receptions for 522 yards and five touchdowns during his senior season. The former offensive captain began his college career as a defensive lineman before moving to left tackle his junior year, but he is expected to play defensive line for Philadelphia.
According to the Eagles’ website, the 25-year-old has earned a number of honors for his service, including the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, the Ranger Tab, the Parachutist Badge, the Bronze Star Medal for overseas service, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Expert Infantryman’s Badge.
The Eagles scouted Villanueva at the super regional combine in Detroit in April, and the defensive end told NFL Media’s Albert Breer he’s ready for his shot to crack an NFL roster, but if it doesn’t happen, he’ll return to Afghanistan for his fourth tour of duty.
“The four years I’ve had in the Army have been the best four years you could ask for,” Villanueva told Breer. “The guys I served with … above me and under me … were phenomenal guys. They were good experiences that made me the man I am today. But now, I see this as a win-win situation. Obviously, I’m trying to get to a team and contribute. But if I can’t, then I can’t wait to get back to the Army and serve in the same manner that I have.”
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