Dr. Jean Tersak

2020 Patricia R. Rooney Award Winner

Al Villaneuva was born in Meridian, Mississippi in 1988. Al’s father was a Spanish naval officer stationed in the United States. Because his father’s assignments changed frequently, Al grew up in many different places. It was at military base high school in Belgium that Al developed an interest in American football.

One of Al’s team mates in Belgium was an American kid bound for the US Military Academy at West Point. He told the football coaches at West Point about Al and they recruited him.

Al played a variety of positions at West Point and after graduation got a free-agent tryout as a tight end with the Cincinnati Bengals. He didn’t make the team and so returned to military service. After three tours of duty in Afghanistan Al decided to take another shot at football. He paid $245 to attend a prospect workout where he caught the attention of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles tried Al as a defensive end, but once again he was cut. He had the good fortune, however, to appear in a preseason game against the Steelers. Mike Tomlin liked his size and athleticism and signed him to play offensive tackle. That was in 2014. During that year Al bulked up from 6’10” and 240 lbs to 340.

Al made his debut as a Steeler in 2015. He played five snaps in the season opener against New England. He continued to develop over the 2016 season. In 2017 he was named to the Pro Bowl--a remarkable accomplishment.