Photo: FOX Sports / Courtesy
Alejandro Villanueva says he was introduced to the sport of American football by watching the movie ‘Ace Ventura’ (1994) when they had to rescue the Miami dolphin, “Snowflake”, before the Super Bowl. And now, the former NFL offensive lineman is enlisting to act as analyst of Super Bowl LVII between Philadelphia and Kansas City in Glendale, Arizona, with the FOX Deportes team.
The first time Villanueva played football he was already in high school, in Belgium, and in fact he came to live in the United States until he was 17 years old. But long before debuting in the NFL – where he came to occupy a key position in one of the most illustrious teams – the Andalusian had already completed a decorated career as a military man.
Villanueva graduated from West Point (NY) Military Academy, served with the Army Rangers and was part of three deployments to Afghanistan. Articles dedicated to military life from the USA report that the seven-foot-tall man risked his life helping three fellow soldiers who had been injured in an ambush in 2011. He literally carried one of them, the gravest one, on his shoulders. He could not survive, but the other two were saved thanks to Villanueva, who for his brave acts received a Bronze Star as an award.
“I was not a war hero, I was a soldier who did what he had to do. I don’t believe in feats”, refutes Villanueva in an interview with La Opinión. “It was a pretty unfortunate day where I had to do what everyone else in my platoon would have done, which was get to work and start pulling out soldiers and trying to get out of a pretty sticky situation.”
Villanueva, seven years in the NFL with a history of “submachine guns and pistols”
Alejandro Villanueva retired from the NFL after seven seasons, six of them as Ben Roethlisberger’s left tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers (2015-20) and one with the Baltimore Ravens (2021).. His career was very good, quite unexpected considering his background, and the image of him went around the United States and beyond as one of the most respected players.
His most remembered moment by the public -he doesn’t want to think about it anymore- was in September 2017 in Chicago when, in tense days due to Colin Kaepernick’s movement, he stayed on the field to listen to the national anthem before the game while everyone his teammates were in the dressing room tunnel. The sale of his jersey skyrocketed in the country. Clearly, his individual status as an Army veteran justified his decision.
He accepts that being a veteran of the armed forces and an NFL player at the same time made him one of the “most appreciated” soldiers by society, but with great humility he says that this is not something he feels proud of and He states that he does not consider himself a role model.
“What happens is that he had a story that maybe instead of taking 10 minutes to tell, it takes 15 minutes. But I sincerely believe that all the stories of all the players I have been with are just as fascinating and well, what happens is that mine has submachine guns and pistols”, says Villanueva. “But the stories that my friends and teammates have about how they got to the NFL I think they’re all incredible; They all deserve a book or a movie or whatever, because really getting there is really, really hard.”
Villanueva, by the way, scored a receiving touchdown in 2018 with Pittsburgh, a moment to remember in his career.
In Miami and with one goal: getting to know Latin American cultures
Retired, deceased and with children, Villanueva has begun the new phase of his life in a place that excites him: Miami, not because of the memory of ‘Ace Ventura’but to fully rediscover the Spanish language. The 34-year-old man expresses emotion and passion for learning about Latin American cultures in the most Latin American city in the country.
“Everyone who comes here to Miami has a story, they all have a path that is different and that is what attracts me the most and the reason why I am still very aware and closely related to everything that has to do with the Spanish,” he says.
Having joined the NFL broadcasting team on FOX Deportes has a very clear objective for Villanueva, who rules out that he can pursue a career in the media.
“I wouldn’t do this job if it wasn’t in Spanish,” he says. “What interests me is culture, I am interested in knowing how Spanish-speaking culture is going to be defined in the United States… Being able to do my bit in this process is something that attracts me”.
Adds Villanueva: “It is a unique experience to be able to be part of what FOX Deportes is… It will be an experience that I will add to all the other experiences I have had in this country since I came here and what it is to gain perspective.”
Villanueva’s hypothesis for the Eagles vs. chiefs
As for Sunday’s Eagles vs. Chiefs and what interests him most about it, the former offensive lineman raises a hypothesis that, much like him, is interesting.
“American football is always changing everything to make it as exciting as possible. And the most exciting possible means that the game has to go to the last play. When it goes to the last play, the owners [de los equipos] they feel satisfied with having done their job”, explains the cerebral Villanueva.
“I don’t remember seeing a more complete team that plays better than the Eagles in many years; It has no flaws… they beat up. That’s not what people want to see. So I want to see that formula, I want to see what the NFL has done this year. to offer a product, and I want to see if such a dominant team is capable of creating a good game against a team as different as the Kansas City Chiefs, who are a ‘situational’ team.”
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