Eagles Sign 6-9 Army Ranger Villanueva

The Eagles have signed U.S. Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva to a rookie free agent contract, the team announced.

The 6-9, 277-pound defensive end served as an active member of the U.S. Army for the last four years. That included three tours in Afghanistan.

Here’s more on Villanueva from the team:

Villanueva has earned many 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 watched the 25-year-old Villanueva perform at the Super Regional Combine in Detroit this offseason from April 12-13. He last played football in 2009 for Army as a wide receiver after converting to that position prior to his senior season. That year, Villanueva served as the Black Knights offensive captain and led the team in catches (34), yards (522) and touchdowns (5). 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.

Villanueva graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering and was commissioned into the U.S. Army, 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.

Upon completion, he reported to Fort Drum, N.Y., where he served in the 10th Mountain Division. 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.

Villanueva played both football and basketball for two years at SHAPE American High School in Belgium, where his father, Ignacio, worked for NATO. Born on 9/22/88 in Meridian, MI, Villanueva spent the majority of his early years growing up in Spain, where he swam competitively and played rugby. He took up football for the first time after his family moved to Belgium.

And there’s additional information on Villanueva in this NFL.com story and this piece on The MMQB.

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  • Brent E. Sulecki

    This kid has quite the resume put together for himself already. What an addition to a locker room. Hope he can contribute and make a run at a position. Great team guy.

  • Richard Colton

    All the effusive praise the Philly media had for that fake a$$ Chad Hall, goes triple for this guy. Total Warrior. I don’t care if he’s a camp body – I’m proud to have him on my team.

    RLTW forever.

    • Jerry Pomroy

      For those that don’t know… “Rangers Lead The Way!”

    • Eagles1018

      I’m proud of this dudes background and have ultimate respect, yet I’m surprised more folks didn’t liken this to Danny Watkins in terms of his background being outside football. Besides he hasn’t played organized ball since ’09. He’s a long shot but hey if he works out I won’t be mad

      • anon

        1st pick vs. UDFA. Agree that it’s probably the same dynamic.

      • James Hathaway

        Wow. I don’t think there’s enough down votes in the world for this comment.

        • Eagles1018

          Sorry if my opinion offended you. I hope the guy makes it in all honesty. Is that bad?

          • James Hathaway

            Not really offended, just found it to be a massive stretch. S’all good.

    • Token

      Can you imagine seeing this guy on a battlefield? Yikes. Hes like a boss on a video game.

    • James Hathaway

      Completely agree. He definitely earned it, and I’m excited to see him in camp this year. If it’s between an UDFA like Damaris, or a 6’9″ Army Ranger, is it even a question who you’d want on your squad?

      • eneagled1

        This guys looks to me to be a DE/OLB/OT/TE/WR hybrid. Sounds “versatile” to me. If he can catch, or contribute on ST, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes it. plus big people, character, culture ETC. And chip wouldn’t have to bring in SEALs for the pep talks anymore.

  • Glenn

    Why not? He wouldn’t root for this guy to make the team?

  • ohitsdom

    Awesome story, a modern day Vince Papale with a whole lot more size & honor.

  • Uncle Johnny

    do we have a spider chart on him

    • Richard Colton

      we did. he parachuted behind enemy lines, killed the spider, then ate it to hide the evidence.

      • LostInChiTown

        Best post all day.

    • JReamer

      Not on mockdraftable.com.

  • Corey Dawson

    Awesome story, glad to have him. Where do we think we’re looking to use him in camp? 277 at 6-9 sounds string bean for a DE. Maybe WR or TE?

  • Bird of Prey

    Pretty cool

  • Joe from Easton

    Now THAT dude is an athlete.

  • Ian Farley

    I think he worked out as a TE in the combine. interesting to see how Philly plans to use him.

  • Engwrite

    Good news: it should keep us from drafting Benjamin

    • Jerry Pomroy

      I said the same!

      Disclaimer: Please do not draft Kelvin Benjamin or I will be forced to sick a bag over my head and suffocate myself.

      J/k, but you get point.

  • Jerry Pomroy

    Get this kid the playbook ASAP & working out. I wanna see him make the cut.

    • Ark87

      That would be so cool…I’m sure he’s a long shot, and that wouldn’t be a feel-good moment if he got cut, but he sort of gets to live the dream, compete with some of the best, learn a ton, teach a ton. Hopefully he can win a job, but I get the feeling this guy just wants to compete. Kinda funny, this will just be a feather in his cap, and not the biggest one either (either way).

      • Joe from Easton

        He’s most likely a very long shot, but damn it would be awesome for him.

    • Corey Dawson

      If he does, he’s this year’s jersey, flat out.

  • Hanibal Luis

    Good story, even better one if if he pans out. I’ll definitely be rooting for him.

  • RIP illa
    • willissez

      Crazy…those fade routes from inside the 5 are basically cheating

      • sprawl

        I’m picturing this guy lined up wide with Lane Johnson like we saw a couple times last season with our other guys.

        Would it work? Probably not…

        Would it be awesome anyway? Yes.

    • Joe from Easton

      Looks like he knows how to use his size, unlike Momah.

    • anon

      But he’s a DE now? I think he’d be better as a TE — i don’t feel great about small school guys unless they crushed it.

      • RIP illa

        Good call, just checked the site. Think, that’s too bad and a waste. He should be going for TE, like you said. He’s been an OL, WR, TE, and a DE.
        The time when he was a DE was a last min invite at the Senior Bowl, I believe. As the story and report goes…The great Sam Mills, was on of the coaches, saw him on D, didn’t like what he saw, and proceeded to work him out as a TE, from that point on.

    • Kev_H

      From those clips it looks like he knows how to go get the ball. If he can do enough on special teams to justify a spot he can be a short yardage/red zone specialist. How do you stop him if you line him up outside? He’d certainly draw attention.

      • RIP illa

        That’s exactly why I like him for competing for the 3rd TE spot. Highly doubt he could beat out Casey, but maybe he could be PS’d…not sure how that works for guys with his scenario. However, I loved what I saw of how he would shield with his body and go after the ball. It seemed inherit. I mean coaches try and teach guys that all the time, but to be able to have that done in in-game situations, and as his 1st go to move…I think that’s special and like it. Oh well, DE it is for him, until they decide otherwise.

        • Kev_H

          It is amazing that he could do that at a DI level having never really played much football and never at a skill position. He’ll be fun to watch and I hope he can justify a roster spot.

    • Adam

      Little of topic but when I was in Philly last year I went to Temple homecoming and saw them play Army. Noticed how the Army o-line leans forward in their 3 point stance like a d-lineman would, rather than putting their weight on their back foot look most o-lineman do and leaning back. When I went to Xfinity that night after the game I ended up drinking with a few guys on the Temple team and they said it was because they wanted to be able to attack when run blocking and also make the d-line unsure of whether they were going to chop or not (apparently they chop a lot).

      Interesting to see that they were still doing this back in 2009. I’m not a fan of the strategy at all. I don’t think Army has been an extremely successful football program in the past few years(correct me if I’m wrong), considering Temple beat them last year.

      • RIP illa

        That’s some good knowledge right there. I’m in agreement with you, in not being a fan of that strategy. I think it’s good/works when used very sparingly. Kinda like what we did to the skins last season, in the 1st game. It was great to see our 5 OL cut and drop their DL, all in unison, while Shady took it off the edge. At least for that 1st time. Then when we kept going to the well, I started to get a little concerned. I’m more along the lines of putting a body on body and imposing will. Maybe that’s cuz I’ve been conditioned with this being done for so long in the league.

  • How can you not root for this guy? Let us welcome Alejandro the Giant!

    • JosephR2225

      I just wish he were a bit taller. Otherwise I’m on board.

  • RIP illa

    Appreciate his service and the background info, but I need to know what kinda numbers he put up at the regional combine.
    Judging by that youtube clip, from awhile back, I’m pretty sure the kid is slow as dirt and not that agile, but not stuck in mud either. However, I saw great use of his size with great body placement and control, and a decent catch radius. Plus he showed pretty nice hands by not letting the ball come into his body. Hands, gotta be like catcher’s mitts, with that kinda size, but I need a measurement for sure. And I was pleasantly surprised by his smooth acceleration and gait, on a couple of those routes. Wish I could have seen some blocking and more physicality, but that’s what TC will be for.
    Kid looks like a gamer and knows how to put in the work. This is the type of player I would like to have as our 3rd TE, rather than paying 4 mil, since we obviously fret about the cap. Longshot, of course, but there’s something there. Good luck to him.

    • anon

      TE or DE? Seems like people are saying DE. I’m sure he’s a camp body — CK is letting him live his dream.

      • RIP illa

        I don’t see him having any shot as a DE. Just my opinion. I think that position isn’t as easy as some think it is and requires a certain mindset, technique, and physical ability…especially when it’s 2-gapping in a 3-4. So I agree…Camp body and roster fodder.

        • Maggie

          Wonder why he’s not already employed, making big bucks, with a systems engineering degree?

          • RIP illa

            How much do they make on average? Maybe he just loves football or playing sports/doing something of athletic nature, that much. What’s the league average at now…350k? And if he could actually make it, as just a backup DE, he could earn close to a mil or over, depending on how good he is. Who knows.

          • Corey Dawson

            Because working for the army as a civilian systems engineer would net him about 60k to start, and he’s still young and able to pursue his dream of playing ball, so he’s giving it a go first?

      • Andy124

        Yeah, this article says DE in the second paragraph. Seeing as it was writtem by Sheil, I’m rolling with that.

        • RIP illa

          LOL. Completely missed that and even went back and re-read it…smh, to myself. In my defense, sorta, he did tryout for the Bengals as a TE. I just don’t see the need to move him to DE. Yet moves like this for players are far from unprecedented with this coaching staff.

          • Andy124

            He’s the new Clifton.

            But yeah, no defense needed. Pretty much everybody is looking at him as a pass catcher. Maybe he’s the equivalent of a college recruit listed as an Athlete. Just get him here and then figure out what he’s best at.

          • willissez

            Played O-line, D-line, and WR in college, how’s that for versatility? No advantage to deciding his position right now. He’ll be a really interesting dude to watch in camp that’s for sure.

          • Andy124

            He and Lane Johnson should hang out.

          • anon

            I think he’d do best as a TE, maybe they’ll see how the draft plays out and take it from there. As a 2-gap DE, not sure i love how tall he is — he’d be so easy to get under, etc. think there’s a lot of technique work that’d have to be done. TE / WR seems a bit easier given size mismatch and the fact that he is mobile at that size. Also think he’d have to get bigger / stronger to play line, but he could dominate a CB or a LB.

  • Scott J

    Quite an accomplished service member. He deserves THANKS for his service to our country!

  • Weapon Y

    Interesting contrast of background between Villanueva and DeSean Jackson. And that observation comes from a guy who hates the DeSean release. Anyway, best of luck to Villanueva!

  • Leegles

    worth it if he pans out as an extra point/FG-blocking specialist.

  • TNA

    This man has a West Point degree in systems engineering and is also an officer and Ranger with multiple tours of combat duty? And is a 6-9 277 pound player with as much versatility as he has verticality? He’s easily going to be one of the fascinating locker room / interview presences during ST.
    We’ll see if he has the football chops, but of course the Eagles would want to get into literal foxholes with this guy — the intangibles of discipline, putting team first, doing what it takes, big beating up small, etc. would seem to be off the charts.

    • Maggie

      He could make a lot more money with that systems engineering degree than as a special teams player or backup DE. Maybe he still enjoys using his brawn more than his brain, lol.

      • reb

        Sheesh, what have you gt against this guy? And no, you can’t make “a lot more money with that systems engineering degree” than as a backup or ST player. NFL minimum salary in 2014 is $420K per year. He would not come close to sniffing that maybe ever in systems engineering.

  • Kev_H

    He’s done tougher things than play in the NFL and don’t underestimate his demonstrated ability to succeed and overcome.

  • DeafDoc

    Would love to see him in the outside linebacker position…

  • myeaglescantwin

    Damn.. I’m on board.

    but are we seeing a DE or TE or WR??
    i don’t care as long as he come to kick ass.

    • myeaglescantwin

      actually looking at his tape, he makes solid catches. Uses the height real well too.
      he definitely “highest point”s each pass. looks like the QB’s trying to throw a field goal.

  • Adam

    I dunno… his character concerns me. In that I think he has too much character.

  • PaoliBulldog

    Wow. As Gene Hackman said in Young Frankenstein, “You must have been the biggest one in your class!”

    • RIP illa

      Wilder, Gene Wilder. Hackman is famous for Hoosiers, among many other movies.

      • cliff henny

        LIttle Bill, he was great in unforgiven. “i’m not kicking you Bob..”

        • Warhound

          Made his bones in the French Connection; what a great movie with a really cool chase scene.

          • RIP illa

            Never could sit down and watch that one, but it is categorized as a classic. Def on my to watch list.

          • Warhound

            Also “The Conversation” – great movie.

          • cliff henny

            think I first remember him in ‘Ghosts of Mississippi’.

        • RIP illa

          I’m generally not a fan of Westerns, but I love that movie.

          • cliff henny

            the duck of death. well, old bob here wasn’t going to wait around for Corkie to grow a new hand. yup, cant ever go wrong watching a CLint Eastwood western, except for paint your wagons red

          • RIP illa

            The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, is my absolute fav and the only classic Western, from way back, that I can sit through.

          • Warhound

            How about “The Outlaw Josie Wales”?

          • RIP illa

            Nope, could never make it through that one either. Prolly cuz when I would 1st watch movies like those, was when I was a kid and my dad was watching them. The G,B,& U, was the only one I could ever make it through and have my attention held. Guess it just stuck with me as I grew up.

      • Maggie

        “It’s alive! It’s alive!” Ranks right up there with, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Or even, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”. ;~p
        Edit: Some talk about Clint Eastwood, so even though not a western, “Do you feel lucky, punk?. Well, do you?”

      • PaoliBulldog

        Hackman played the blind man. “Now, don’t inhale … until the tip glows.”

      • Johnny Domino

        Hackman played the blind man

  • wow, all that and he’s still 3 years younger than Watkins when drafted? daaaamn

  • ochospantalones

    I hear Villanueva has been seen in some of the worst neighborhoods in the world and associates with multiple guys who have killed people.

  • Maggie

    Before the testosterone takes over completely, the majority of those medals are just for being in a platoon or completing a course. Second, if this guy was a platoon leader and XO, is he coachable, willing to take orders from a chubby football coach? Will he follow a diet and fitness routine designed by a SEAL trainer? Can he work well with others who are considered his equals, not his underlings? After a couple of tours in Aghanistan he might be a PTSD candidate. It’s okay to want meanness on defense, but not a headcase.

    • RIP illa

      I’m not coming at you but I don’t think you have an understanding, or a real appreciation of what Rangers go through to become Rangers, and what they do afterwards. I’m no expert, but 61 days of Hell is a bit more than just “completing a course”! And as far as working with others, that is a neccessity that he has/had to acquire to become a Ranger and continue on, as well as being able to follow orders. Last time I checked, platoon leader wasn’t at the pinnacle of the chain of command. As for the other stuff…well I don’t know what else to say. I think you might just be reading way to into things.

      • Maggie

        Someone was commenting on his medals and I responded that the majority are for non-combat roles. (Also the reason for reference to testosterone!) I come from a family with quite a number of people who were in the military. Unlike some folks on these boards, not a single member of my family wanted to kill anybody. Sometimes it became necessary, but there was no video game garbage. One uncle was captured and spent 3 years in a German POW camp. He would almost never talk about his experiences, but he couldn’t stomach crap like Hogan’s Heroes or even The Dirty Dozen. My ex was Navy, but his stories were about odd adventures onshore, rarely about aboard ship. Real people know that real life is NOT like a movie or video game. That’s really all I was saying.

        • Warhound

          FYI – The actor who portrayed LeBeau in Hogans’ Heroes spent most of WWII in a Nazi Concentration Camp (not as a POW). He took the role because the show made the Germans look bad. Actor Werner Klemperer only agreed to take the role when he was assured that Colonel Klink would never win, ever. Anyway, things aren’t always as they seem.

        • reb

          The problem is that the way you’re saying it is to demean someone else and presume that the reason he is In the military because he wants it to be like a video game and/or wants to kill people. Maybe he actually is good at what he does and finds value in serving his country. I don’t know,but the point is you don’t know either.

    • All Things Bad@ss

      They interviewed this guy at the Super Combine and he seems genuinely humble and would be incredibly grateful to just be a part of a team. To add onto what RIP said, special forces is ALL about teamwork and so I believe he’d truly appreciate Chip, his work ethic, and philosophies on teamwork and taking care of the body. I remember watching “Surviving the Cut” series and the Rangers definitely had it rough. Could definitely see this guy situationally playing both sides of ball; after all, “big people beat up little people” and “versatility”

    • Corey Dawson

      “The giving orders” stuff is way over blown in movies. Those guys work as an integrated team, very close to equal. “Pulling rank” doesn’t need to happen much. He still has plenty of people higher than him.

  • Frank

    This kid has more guts and drive than any player in the NFL. He volunteered for 3 combat tours risking his life under fire. Any person who poo-poo’s this hero’s accomplishments is a stupid loser.

    • PhillyTru

      What Frank said.

    • Maggie

      You are the one calling him a kid. As a personal opinion, my definition of a hero may be different than yours. A hero is an ordinary person who sticks it out, sometimes for years, doing the background work that no one ever sees or praises. The wife who spends years alone, running a household, cleaning bathrooms, bringing up children, alone, while daddy plays his little war games in the sandbox, with the other little boys who never grow up, always looking for that testosterone rush. Or like a Fanny Lou Hamer, who was a major player behind Martin Luther King, but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of her. Or even an assistant coach who makes players better but never gets face time on TV.

      • James Skip Carl

        I see Geagles point

      • Real

        “while daddy plays his little war games in the sandbox, with the other
        little boys who never grow up, always looking for that testosterone

        You are disgusting.

      • Richard Colton

        Yawn. You’re entitled to your opinion, but the passive
        aggressive way you go at this kid is irritating. Nothing you’ve said is
        factually accurate. That “V” device in his BSM for a second lieutenant
        is a huge deal. and the caviler way you make fun of PTSD is just about the most despicable thing I’ve seen on 24/7 – and 10X worse than anything GEAGLE ever said to you. I’m not angry – it’s who you are. I’m more upset with ANON for upvoting your nonsense.

        Say what you mean – “I, Maggie, come from a long line of pacifists whose greatest accomplishment to date is the election of Pierre Trudeau.”

        • cliff henny

          she’s also entitled to know her opinion is completely BS. never engage in conversations w/ her, find most of it off topic and pat on her own back self-serving, but this thread pretty much locks it up.

      • UWotM8

        More like while daddy’s “playing his little war games,” mommy’s out banging the neighbor and spending his money. You sure talk a lot of talk from the safety of your trailer park, Maggie. I’d sure like to see you say the same thing about “playing a game” with bullets spraying past your fat head.

  • SoCalEaglesFan

    Publicity stunt

  • John J. King

    Class act. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Would love to see him become a monster.