Over the last few weeks, the nation has been fixated on a second string NFL Quarterback and a senseless action aimed at doing nothing more than getting his name in the paper. Personally, I find his actions to be offensive, shallow and a slap in the face to anyone who has ever worn ANY uniform. I really do not understand why Americans give professional athletes, actors and other entertainers a pedestal to stand on and then hang on every word they utter. But, if you must honor a professional athlete, let me provide you with an alternative.
Alejandro Villanueva is currently a starting Offensive Tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers and, although many will judge him based on his Sunday afternoon performance, this is not why you should hold him aloft. The reasons Alejandro Villanueva should be elevated or honored has nothing to do with his NFL career and everything to do with his actions before ever donning the Black and Gold – as a Captain in the United States Army. If you must think of a professional athlete as being special, Captain Villanueva gave you every reason necessary and then some.
While the 27 year old West Point graduate may be starting his second season as a Steeler, he had already accomplished far more than any of his teammates prior to ever donning pads and a helmet. Following his graduation from West Point, Villanueva served on active duty, completed Ranger training and completed three tours in Afghanistan. This alone earns him a great deal of well-deserved respect, but there is more. By the time he left active duty as a Captain, he had also earned a Bronze Star and the story of how he did so means he is a true American Hero.
In August 2011, while serving as a platoon leader, then 2nd Lt. Villanueva saw that platoon come under heavy fire from Taliban units. Three of his soldiers were wounded and one died as Villanueva carried him to the evacuation helicopter. In a rare ESPN interview about his military service, he referred to that as “a really bad night” and repeated how bad he felt about losing a unit member instead of touting his own accomplishments in saving the other members of the platoon. But this is one of the attributes which sets him aside from many of his current peers.
Another trait which sets him aside, and which led to his being recruited by the Steelers, is his continued show of patriotism while wearing pads rather than cammies. During a 2015 preseason game, when he was playing for the Eagles, the 6’9” rookie stood at attention and saluted during the National Anthem – something which caught Steeler coach Mike Tomlin’s eye and resulted in his reaching out to Villanueva when a roster opening occurred in Pittsburgh. As I watched the Steeler’s 2016 opener, I noticed he was now singing along; other players would do well to follow his example instead of that of some others throughout the league.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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