HomeNewsArticle Display

Former Army officer, current NFL player gives back to service members in Germany

Alejandro Villanueva football camp attendees attempt to catch a football while practicing offensive drills during the Alejandro Villanueva football camp at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 14, 2019. More than 200 children participated in the two-day camp focusing on football fundamentals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

Alejandro Villanueva football camp attendees attempt to catch a football while practicing offensive drills during the Alejandro Villanueva football camp at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 14, 2019. More than 200 children participated in the two-day camp focusing on football fundamentals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, prepares to run a route against one of his camp attendees while practicing offensive drills during his football camp at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 14, 2019. Villanueva, a former U.S. Army captain, hosted his first overseas football camp here this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, prepares to run a route against one of his camp attendees while practicing offensive drills during his football camp at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 14, 2019. Villanueva, a former U.S. Army captain, hosted his first overseas football camp here this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, coaches one of his camp attendees on defensive drills during his football camp at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 14, 2019. After leaving the U.S. Army, Villanueva worked and signed with the Steelers to play in the NFL. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, coaches one of his camp attendees on defensive drills during his football camp at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 14, 2019. After leaving the U.S. Army, Villanueva worked and signed with the Steelers to play in the NFL. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

An Alejandro Villanueva football camp attendee runs a three-cone-shuttle drill during a camp at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 13, 2019. Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, hosted two football camps, one for youth, and one for adults. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

An Alejandro Villanueva football camp attendee runs a three-cone-shuttle drill during a camp at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 13, 2019. Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, hosted two football camps, one for youth, and one for adults. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, jumps to catch a pass during a seven-on-seven football game during his youth football camp at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 13, 2019. Villanueva, a former U.S. Army captain and Army Ranger, returned to Europe to host his first overseas football camp. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, jumps to catch a pass during a seven-on-seven football game during his youth football camp at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 13, 2019. Villanueva, a former U.S. Army captain and Army Ranger, returned to Europe to host his first overseas football camp. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

An Alejandro Villanueva football camp attendee throws a football while NBC Europe videographers film during a football distance throw drill at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 13, 2019. Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, served in the U.S. Army before becoming a professional football player. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

An Alejandro Villanueva football camp attendee throws a football while NBC Europe videographers film during a football distance throw drill at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 13, 2019. Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, served in the U.S. Army before becoming a professional football player. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

An Alejandro Villanueva football camp attendee jumps through a ladder drill during offensive drills at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 13, 2019. Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, hosted a two-day camp for Kaiserslautern Military Community youth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

An Alejandro Villanueva football camp attendee jumps through a ladder drill during offensive drills at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 13, 2019. Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, hosted a two-day camp for Kaiserslautern Military Community youth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

A volunteer coach hands the ball off to an Alejandro Villanueva football camp attendee during offensive drills at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 13, 2019. Volunteer coaches from around the Kaiserslautern Military Community coached young football players on offensive and defensive drills, along with seven-on-seven games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

A volunteer coach hands the ball off to an Alejandro Villanueva football camp attendee during offensive drills at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, Germany, April 13, 2019. Volunteer coaches from around the Kaiserslautern Military Community coached young football players on offensive and defensive drills, along with seven-on-seven games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, talks to a Kaiserslautern Military Community member during an autograph session at the commissary on Vogelweh Military Complex, April 13, 2019. Villanueva, a former U.S. Army captain and Army Ranger, was awarded the Bronze Star medal with valor for his actions during a deployment to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, talks to a Kaiserslautern Military Community member during an autograph session at the commissary on Vogelweh Military Complex, April 13, 2019. Villanueva, a former U.S. Army captain and Army Ranger, was awarded the Bronze Star medal with valor for his actions during a deployment to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark R. August, 86th Airlift Wing commander, speaks to the Alejandro Villanueva football camp attendees before the camp begins at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, April 13, 2019. August thanked Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, and former U.S. Army captain and Army Ranger, for traveling to Europe to coach Kaiserslautern Military Community youth and adults. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)
PHOTO DETAILS  /   DOWNLOAD HI-RES 10 of 10

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark R. August, 86th Airlift Wing commander, speaks to the Alejandro Villanueva football camp attendees before the camp begins at Kaiserslautern High School on Vogelweh Military Complex, April 13, 2019. August thanked Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, and former U.S. Army captain and Army Ranger, for traveling to Europe to coach Kaiserslautern Military Community youth and adults. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

He used to hear explosions of improvised explosive devices, now he hears the explosion of a crowd’s cheers. Instead of commanding officers shouting orders, it’s now teammates calling audibles. He no longer wears a Kevlar helmet, trading it in for a football helmet.

Whether it is the U.S. Army or the NFL, Alejandro Villanueva has always been a part of a team. His current team is the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he knows he’ll always be a soldier. And part of being a soldier is upholding the Army values of selfless service and duty.

Villanueva, one of the Steelers offensive linemen, spent three days in the Kaiserslautern Military Community hosting autograph sessions and football camps for both youth and adults.

“I do this in the states but I felt like coming out here to Europe where I played high school football and to a location that means so much to all the service members who come back,” said Villanueva. “Obviously I owe a lot to these (service members) and their families as well.”

During the camps, number 78 taught football fundamentals to both the young and the young-at-heart. He tied those fundamentals to being a service member.

“Training for the military, everything you do, you do with your team,” said Villanueva. “You do it with your guys. In the NFL it’s a little bit lonelier because you’re competing with everybody around you, so you don’t really get that same team feel.”

Villanueva, a Meridian, Mississippi, native, challenged his camp attendees to practice perfection in regards to both fields, football and combat.

“The more you rehearse an operation, battle drills, briefing, the more comfortable you’re going to feel,” he said. “And when you go out on the field it feels second nature. You can talk about football in the same sense. The more you rehearse the same play and focus on the details then when you go out on the field you can execute on the highest levels.”

He continued, adding that while perfection may be statistically improbable, the pursuit of it is what truly matters.

“You know you’re always going to be making mistakes,” said the former Army captain. “But always having the relentless attitude to fix everything is going to make you a better player, a better soldier, and a better family member.”

Attendees of the camps expressed their gratitude to Villanueva for visiting and hosting the camps, who in return thanked them for what they do.

“I’m always shaking service member’s hands and thanking them for their service,” he said. “You always have to remember that they have families because it’s very difficult for the families to be out here as well. To be away from their mothers and fathers, to maybe have to go around every single year and meet other kids all the time. For their sacrifice, anything I can do feels good and if it does help the service member…by all means it’s something that makes me feel pretty good.”