The Eagles signed U.S. Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva to their defensive line on Monday. Villanueva, who is 6-foot-9 and 277 pounds, spent the last four years in the Army and served three tours in Afghanistan. He last played football in 2009, when he was a wide receiver at Army.
The Eagles scouted Villanueva, 25, at the Super Regional Combine in Detroit from April 12-13. He will be with the team for the rookie mini-camp from May 16-18. Villanueva tried out for the Bengals as a tight end in 2010 before his service.
"As soon as I graduated, especially with all my classmates at West Point who were all going to serve, my mind and my heart were going to Afghanistan," Villanueva told NFL.com in April. "That's where I wanted to be. I wanted to serve, I wanted to see combat. I was actually trying to get as many deployments as I could, and see it with different units. That's where my mind and my heart was."
Villanueva’s size fits Chip Kelly’s mantra of “big people beat up little people.” He has been out of football for four years, so Villanueva has time to make up, although he’s been busy in the interim. Villanueva’s has earned 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. He was promoted to captain earlier this month.
Villanueva arrived at West Point as a reserve defensive lineman in 2006. He moved to left tackle in 2008, starting at that spot for 12 games. He converted to wide receiver in 2009 and led the Black Knights with 34 catches, 522 yards, and five touchdowns.
After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy, he was commissioned into the Army and moved to Fort Benning, Ga., for the Infantry Officer Basic Airborne Course, and the U.S. Army Ranger Course. He then reported to Fort Drum, N.Y. before his first deployment to Afghanistan.
Villanueva was born in Wisconsin, spent his early years in Spain, and attended high school in Belgium, where his father worked for NATO. Villanueva picked up football in Belgium.