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Eagles sign D-lineman, Army hero Villanueva
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If you can’t root for this guy, you can’t root for anybody.
 
The Eagles on Monday morning signed 6-foot-9, 275-pound defensive lineman and Army hero Alejandro Villanueva to a rookie free agent contract.
 
Villanueva spent the last four years in the Army, serving three tours in Afghanistan and earning numerous honors, including the Bronze Star.
 
The Eagles scouted Villanueva in April at the Super Regional Combine in Detroit.
 
He hasn’t played competitive football since 2009, when he was a wide receiver at Army and led the Black Knights with 34 receptions, 522 receiving yards and five TD catches.

According to Army’s 2009 roster, Villanueva weighed 283 pounds when he played wide receiver.

“The four years I've had in the Army have been the best four years you could ask for," Villanueva told NFL.com last month. "The guys I served with ... above me and under me ... were phenomenal guys. They were good experiences that made me the man I am today.

“But now, I see this as a win-win situation. Obviously, I'm trying to get to a team and contribute. But if I can't, then I can't wait to get back to the Army and serve in the same manner that I have."
 
Villanueva was born in Michigan but grew up in Spain, where he was a competitive swimmer, and didn’t start playing football until his family moved to Belgium, where he attended SHAPE American High School while his father, Ignacio, worked for NATO. Villanueva played both football and basketball for two years there.
 
He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy with a Bachelor of Science in systems engineering and was commissioned into the U.S. Army in May 2010 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry.
 
He completed Infantry Officer Basic Course, Basic Airborne Course and the U.S. Army Ranger Course at Fort Benning, Ga., before heading to Fort Drum, N.Y., where he served in the 10th Mountain Division.
 
It was with the 10th Mountain Division that Villanueva deployed to Afghanistan for 12 months as a Rifle Platoon Leader.
 
For his service in Afghanistan, Villanueva earned a Bronze Star Medal for Valor for moving forward under enemy fire to pull his wounded soldiers out of danger.
 
Upon returning from Afghanistan, Villanueva became a Rifle Company Executive Officer.
 
In November, Villanueva volunteered for the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Assessment and Selection Program and served with the 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.
 
As a U.S. Army Ranger, he served two more times in Afghanistan for a total of eight months.

"As soon as I graduated, especially with all my classmates at West Point who were all going to serve, my mind and my heart were going to Afghanistan," he told NFL.com. "That's where I wanted to be. I wanted to serve, I wanted to see combat. I was actually trying to get as many deployments as I could, and see it with different units. That's where my mind and my heart was."
 
In addition to the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, Villanueva has also received numerous other military awards and honors, including 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.