Having spent four years in the U.S Army and served three tours in Afghanistan before beginning a career in NFL, it would be fair to say that Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva has had a relatively unique journey to becoming a professional football player. But when the former Army Ranger first signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, he had little idea that he would ever sign a multi-million dollar contract with an NFL team.
Even when signed to a two-year futures contract with the Steelers worth close to $1 million in 2015, Villanueva was far from confident he had a future in the league, but it did at least give him enough money to be able invest in his future.
By enrolling in the prestigious Tepper School of Business at local Pittsburgh university Carnegie Mellon, Villanueva figured he could translate his big pay day in Pittsburgh into an education while attempting to make the team. As he would explain to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic.
“I never thought I was going to make it in the NFL. The odds in the NFL to make it aren’t very good. I felt that the reason why I was here was so I could afford to go to business school.”
Four years on and Villanueva not only has an even bigger contract with the Steelers than he could ever have imagined, but as of last week, has now also earned his MBA.
The task was not without its challenges, but it should come as no surprise to learn that the man with the military background was more than willing to put in the extra effort required.
“Carnegie Mellon was a great opportunity where I wouldn’t have to leave football to do it. I took (business school) very seriously up until Week 6 when I went from doing my homework at the hotel to having a full-time job and a lot of attention (needed to be) put on the game. Those first two years were very difficult.”
And while some might have decided all the additional hard work was not worth it once he signed a four-year deal worth $24 million in 2017, quitting was never an option that Villanueva considered.
“After the contract, I realized that I had to finish it because I spent a lot of money in tuition the first two years. It did cross my mind that I shouldn’t put as much effort into an exam after the contract, but I never thought about quitting or not finishing the program.”
With his MBA now complete and a career in the league seemingly secure for the next few years at least, the offensive tackle still has no intention of taking it easy, telling Kaboly that he is now considering enrolling at a technical college to learn how to build engines. No one should bet against him succeeding in that field either.