It’s been five years since 25-year-old U.S. Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva last played football. He’d been busy during that time serving his country during three tours in Afghanistan. But that didn’t stop the Philadelphia Eagles, who announced this month that they signed the 6-foot-9, 277-pound former Army wide receiver to a rookie free agent contract this week.
According to the Eagles’ announcement, Villanueva, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Villanueva earned the Bronze Star Medal of 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 of Terrorism Service Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Expert Infantryman’s Badge. He was commissioned 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.
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.
During his football career at Army, Villanueva served as the Black Knights offensive captain and led the team in catches (34), yards (522) and touchdowns (5) in a run-oriented offensive system. The Eagles watched the 25-year-old Villanueva perform at the Super Regional Combine in Detroit this offseason in April. With his height, he will become a (very) big target for the Eagles should he make the team during training camp this summer.
He originally began his career at Army seeing action as a reserve defensive lineman from 2006-07 before making the transition to left tackle in 2008, starting all 12 games at that position in his junior campaign. He became a wide receiver during his senior season at West Point.