There are days when I go to Latrobe not exactly sure what I will write about. It's not a bad thing; having an open mind to what grabs you does lead to opportunity at times.
So as I was making my 1st trip to Steelers training camp in Latrobe, 2015 style, I wanted to keep the slate clean and see what I would run into.
Camp is such a treat, as the Rooney family have really turned the fields at St Vincent College into a little football factory. The complex has certainly changed from when I was first dragged up there in 1979.
But for a guy like 2nd year tackle Alejandro Villanueva, I'm sure it's much better than his previous work environment of serving as a captain in the elite US Army Rangers.
I don't need to go over his list of accomplishments while serving our country. It's impressive. 3 tours of Afghanistan, a bronze star. Some look at movie and TV stars as heroes. Singers also. None come close to what Villanueva truly defines the word to really mean.
After leaving the military, he signed on with Philadelphia, only to get cut. That's when the Steelers stepped in. Since then, he's mostly been a work in progress. I enjoyed watching him for most of the day, either in offensive line drills, or just as the team joined together for scrimmage time.
At 6-feet 9-inches, Villanueva is a mammoth of a man. Large is small compared to him. His height alone is enough to give him an advantage against most rushing guys, since his wingspan can extend to block those wishing to harm a quarterback. He said working on his technique is has helped him improve in the past year.
"A little of everything", Villanueva said regarding what's been his area of focus. "Everybody's trying too - I've got to see what I look like on game film, then work on that in practice. Just continue to work on the things that define what's a good offensive line. Being physical. Being relentless. Always having the last push. If you do get beat, how you come back and bounce back."
One thing the Army Cadet graduate did recognize was that he has much to work on.
"We are all working together as a group, obviously everybody's trying to get better at their own little things. There is not a single area that I'm perfect at so I'm working on everything. I've gotten a lot of reps and that's been a really good thing for me. It's been really fun, football 24/7 with a great bunch of guys and coaches."
Vllanueva spent much of Saturday's line drills locked up with Kelvin Beachum, whose role on this team just got even more critical as Mike Adams sits out with a back problem. The training has been helpful to him.
"He really understands the game," said Villanueva of Beachum. " I learn from him and it's good because I want to be able to play and contribute like he has."
So far so good for this Ranger. Here's to him continuing this great adventure of professional football when the games actually count.
John Phillips is a sports reports & anchor for CBS Pittsburgh's 93.7 The Fan and News Radio 1020 KDKA. You can follow him on Twitter @JPOnTheFan