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You’ve Seen Alejandro Villanueva in Headlines. Do You Know His Amazing Backstory?

Who is Alejandro Villanueva?

He’s an Army veteran and offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Why is he making headlines?

Villanueva was the only member of his team to stand outside during the national anthem on Sunday, placing his hand on his heart per tradition. Head coach Mike Tomlin had earlier said the whole team would stay inside the locker room during the anthem to avoid any controversy.

People who were offended by NFL players who were protesting by kneeling during the national anthem praised Villanueva; however, he later told media that he had inadvertently gotten separated from his teammates and then realized he couldn’t turn back while the anthem was playing.

“I never planned to boycott the plan that the Steelers came up with,” he told reporters in Pittsburgh. “I just thought that there could be some middle ground where I could stay in the tunnel, nobody would see me.”

What’s his story?

Glenn shared some details from Villanueva’s Army career on radio Tuesday. Villanueva had a storied Army career: the Bronze Star for valor in Afghanistan, the challenges of Ranger School, and two tours in the elite Ranger Regiment, according to the New York Times. Standing at 6’8” and 320 pounds, the Mississippi-born football star was remembered as “a leader among his peers” by one of his commanders.

This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.

GLENN: The giant. The giant is what the locals in Afghanistan used to call him. His platoon called him just Lieutenant V. Sometimes just V.

It was late at night on August 2011, that the Taliban ambushed his platoon. And it was a furious firefight. Three American soldiers were hit immediately in the bullet spray. And Lieutenant V, the giant, took the wounded men to a nearby school, carrying one of them on his back.

A helicopter eventually rescued them all. For that, he was awarded the bronze star. Bronze star with a V, for valor.

He says he'd rather not have it. Because one of the three wounded men died that night. He was a private. Jesse Diedrick.

V still hasn't come to grips with the tragedy. Yet, there would be two more tours in Afghanistan for V. This time, as an Army Ranger.

V has a really unusual background. He was born in Mississippi to Spanish parents. His dad was a Spanish naval officer.

Later, his dad worked at NATO in Belgium, where V played football for the first time at an American high school. He was smart. He was athletic. And he was really big.

He eventually went to West Point. And he made the football team, as a walk-on. By his senior year, he was team captain. Then came Afghanistan, the bronze star.

Then he fell in love. And he married the love of his life, Madeleine.

Although he hadn't played football in five years, he tried for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, and he made the team. But he was cut before the season started. Then he made the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad. And halfway through the season, he earned a starting spot. This summer, the Steelers gave him a four-year 24 million-dollar contract extension.

This is the man that much of America grew to love, but not yet know. On Sunday, the 29-year-old, 6-foot-8, 320-pound offensive lineman, V, the giant, Alejandro Villanueva. He was the only Pittsburgh Steeler player to step out of the tunnel for the national anthem. He stood there with his hand over his heart, and by doing so, he stepped into the hearts of millions of Americans who are just disgusted by the childish activism of so many NFL players.

But here's the update on the story: Yesterday, he came out with a heartfelt apology. He apologized because he said it was not his intention to be seen and step out and make himself different than the rest of the team. He said he made his team and his coach look bad.

But something drew him out of that tunnel. Something that most of us will never fully understand, because our lives have not been at stake for the country.

You see, this player that was probably the icon of Sunday, wasn't making a statement. He stood there with his hand over his heart because it was private and personal. Because it was about a private.

And when he saw that the press had captured that private moment, he humbly apologized, which is why we and his coach and his teammates respect him even more.

Villanueva undoubtedly was standing there thinking back to Afghanistan and the loss of Private Diedrick. Villanueva has something that the rest of America is sorely missing: honor, integrity, and real perspective.

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