<
>

Former Army Ranger making an impression

Alejandro Villanueva realized the odds of earning a roster spot on the Philadelphia Eagles were long.

They still are.

But Villanueva continues to make an impression on the Eagles' coaching staff as training camp progresses. The 6-foot-9 defensive end, a former U.S. Army Ranger, is playing competitive football for the first time since 2009.

An NFL training camp is quite different from his time at Army.

"(Defensive line) coach (Jerry) Azzinaro calls it ‘the elephant in the room,'" Villanueva told CSNPhilly.com. "Half of us aren't going to be here at the end. For me, I knew from the beginning it was a very tough situation but I'm going to enjoy the experience as much as I can."

He's also going to work as hard as any player in training camp.

"Whatever Coach Azzinaro tells me to do everyday is what I try to focus on," Villanueva told CSNPhilly.com. "It's more of trying to fit the system than being an individual player."

Villanueva has gained nearly 40 pounds since joining the Eagles, putting him around 315.

"When you're in the Army, you're so busy that you barely eat," Villanueva told CSNPhilly.com. "You forget breakfast sometimes because it's a commodity and for dinner, you're usually so tired you only eat a little whereas now I'm getting plenty to eat. I'm trying to do anything that's going to get me to be effective in this defense. If that means bulk up and move guys off the line then great."

Obviously, Villanueva is unsure exactly what will transpire between now and the regular season.

He knows this much: He'll work like crazy to make his football dream come true.

"Ending up here is obviously my first priority, or I could have to go back to the Army or I could get out of the Army and look for a job like everyone else," Villanueva told CSNPhilly.com. "Football has treated me well, but I understand that it's a tough competition. Coming in as a defensive lineman and competing against great guys is a challenge."