That the Eagles recently signed a player to a free-agent deal isn't news because, well, teams are always making roster moves. What is newsworthy, however, is that their latest addition is 6-foot-9, 277-pound Alejandro Villanueva, who spent the past four years on active duty in the Army -- including three tours in Afghanistan -- after playing collegiately at West Point.
According to the team's website, Villanueva was promoted to captain earlier this month and "has earned many honors for his service, including the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, 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."
The Eagles saw Villanueva work out at the super regional combine in Detroit last month. The 25-year-old last played in 2009, his senior season at Army, when he caught 34 passes for 552 yards and 5 touchdowns as a wide receiver. He began his college career as a defensive lineman (2006-2007) before moving to left tackle in 2008, where he started 12 games as a junior.
Back in April, Villanueva told NFL.com's Albert Breer that if the NFL doesn't work out -- and he understands that it's a long shot -- he'll return to Afghanistan in September for his fourth tour of duty.
"The four years I've had in the Army have been the best four years you could ask for," Villanueva said. "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."