When you go to battle in the military, trusting the man next to you is of paramount importance.
When you take the field on game day, especially as part of an offensive line, trust is again a huge factor.
But despite having the ability to trust in both of those situations, Alejandro Villanueva admits he had some trust issues when he first came to the Steelers, issues that subsided once he got a feel for the team.
“It’s very hard for me to trust someone when it comes to the path I took to the NFL,” said Villanueva. “So many organizations have led me to believe I would make the team and then I got cut.”
Villanueva’s dream of playing in the NFL began while he was at West Point, but after he wasn’t drafted in 2010, he wasn’t sure if it would ever happen. Villanueva got a tryout with the Cincinnati Bengals, and went to their rookie minicamp where he worked at tight end. He wasn’t signed, instead heading out in his first of three deployments as an Army Ranger. When he returned he gave it another shot with the Chicago Bears, but again was signed and was deployed and football would have to wait.
In 2014 he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, but was cut during camp. And then his break came. About a week after the Eagles let him go the Steelers signed him to their practice squad.
“This organization is special,” said Villanueva. “It was different.”
After getting through the early rocky road of trust, he realized that everyone had his best interest at heart. And it all started at the top.
“If you look at it objectively, the one thing the Steelers have that other teams don’t have is stability,” said Villanueva. “You have ownership that everybody respects and admires. An ownership that is present in everybody’s lives. We all go to mass together before games and you see the Rooneys there and those are things that are appreciated by players. Just the fact that they know your name. They are going to say hi to you every time they see you. That means a lot. That means I mean something to the Steelers.
“In other organizations, they might know you, who you are. They might have heard of you, but they don’t value you as a person. They care about me here not as a veteran, not as a football player, not as a MBA candidate. They care about me as a person.
“From there you can start building relationships with a person and that is the first step to building trust. Mike Munchak is the greatest coach in the NFL because he is a very good person, he has values, and you can look up to him. He is a gentleman. He is very respectful of other people. He cares about every single player. That is the fastest way to build trust, to have sincere and honest relationships with everybody. It’s really easy for me to walk around this building and say hi to everybody and get to know everybody. Once you have that trust in the organization, the organization tries to get the best out of you and that is what they are doing.”