After 7 Years in the NFL, Decorated Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva Retires

March 14, 2022Mac Caltrider
Alejandro Villanueva

Alejandro Villanueva — a decorated Army Ranger — is retiring after seven years in the NFL. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

Alejandro Villanueva, the former Army Ranger who earned a spot as an offensive tackle with the Pittsburgh Steelers after leaving the Army in 2015, is retiring after a seven-year career in the National Football League. The two-time Pro Bowler played six seasons with Pittsburgh before signing with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021. 

Villanueva served in the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division and 75th Ranger Regiment, deploying three times to Afghanistan. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, in 2010. As a rifle platoon commander, Villanueva served in Afghanistan in 2011 with the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, of the 10th Mountain Division. 

Alejandro Villanueva finished his National Football League career with the Baltimore Ravens. Wikimedia Commons photo.

When Villanueva’s unit was ambushed by a squad of Taliban fighters, three of his men were quickly wounded. Braving enemy fire, Villanueva retrieved Pfc. Jesse Dietrich — the most grievously wounded of the three soldiers — and dragged him inside a nearby mosque where the unit’s medic took over administering medical aid. When their position in the mosque became untenable, Villanueva led the effort to relocate the three casualties, carrying one of them on his shoulders. Dietrich ultimately succumbed to his injuries, but the other two casualties survived. For his courage under fire, Villanueva was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valor. 

Villanueva completed two more combat tours in Afghanistan as a member of the 1st Ranger Battalion. 

During his six seasons with the Steelers, Villanueva started in a franchise-record 91 games. He helped the Steelers win three American Football Conference North division championships (2016, 2017, 2020), and the Steelers reached the AFC Championship game in 2016, falling just short of the Super Bowl. He played his final NFL season with the Baltimore Ravens. 

During his time in the NFL, the offensive tackle built a reputation in the league as an ardent supporter of the armed forces. In 202o, Villanueva wore Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe’s name on his helmet to highlight the fight to have Cashe’s Silver Star upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Alejandro Villanueva
Alejandro Villanueva, center, while serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Photo courtesy of @Mart1nMucha on Twitter.

“Every single time I have the opportunity to thank anybody who’s joining the military, I always take the time to thank them for their service, for their sacrifices and their families,” Villanueva told Sports Illustrated in 2020.

Now 33, Villanueva is eager to put football behind him. In a radio interview Thursday, March 10, the West Point graduate described the NFL as “a little bit circus-like.” He also said that, if the war in Ukraine were to escalate, he would consider returning to active duty.

Alejandro Villanueva
Alejandro Villanueva played six season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wikimedia Commons photo.

“That’s why I’m so skinny,” the former Army Ranger said. “I’m 265 right now. The moment we have to go, there’s no way I’m going to be on the sidelines. I think most veterans, if there’s a war, you don’t want to see somebody else go fight it.” 

Villanueva plans to move to Miami with his family, finally leaving football and the bitter cold of Pittsburgh and Baltimore behind him. 

Read Next: How Green Beret-Turned-NFL Player Nate Boyer Aims To Shake Up Hollywood

Mac Caltrider
Mac Caltrider

Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
US Launches Airstrikes in Syria After Drone Kills US Worker

While it’s not the first time the U.S. and Iran have traded airstrikes in Syria, the attack and the ...

March 24, 2023Associated Press
The Gift jason dunham
‘The Gift’ Explores the Life and Legacy of Medal of Honor Recipient Jason Dunham

"The Gift" tells the story of the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor after the Vietnam War. ...

March 24, 2023Mac Caltrider
uss milius
US Denies Chinese Claim It Drove Away American Destroyer

The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet said that a statement from China's Southern Theatre Command that it had fo...

March 23, 2023Associated Press
The Speed Project: Vet Team To Run in Lawless, Invite-Only Ultramarathon

For the first time, a team of (mostly) US veterans and active-duty service members will run in The S...

March 23, 2023Jenna Biter
uranium-based ammo ammunition Ukraine UK depleted uranium
A Look At the Uranium-Based Ammo the UK Will Send to Ukraine

The British defense ministry on Monday confirmed it would provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.

March 23, 2023Associated Press
Zaporizhzhia Ukraine Russia
Ukraine: Russia Hits Apartments and Dorm, Killing Civilians

“Russia is shelling the city with bestial savagery,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote in a Telegr...

March 22, 2023Associated Press
cold brew coffee soda float
The Bitter Barista's Cold Brew Coffee Soda Float

Today, we combine the best of both worlds with this indulgent recipe, smashing together our love of coffee and ice cream with a cold brew coffee soda float!

March 21, 2023Heather Lynn
abrams tanks ukraine
US Speeds Up Abrams Tank Delivery to Ukraine War Zone

The original plan was to send Ukraine 31 of the newer M1A2 Abrams, which could have taken a year or ...

March 21, 2023Associated Press
  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved