Just two days after Donald Trump made aggressive comments toward those that chose to “disrespect” the flag during the national anthem in September, NFL teams responded in a huge way. Hundreds of players protested, and entire teams even stayed in the locker room or tunnel. One of those teams was the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Before the game on Sept. 24, head coach Mike Tomlin stated his entire team would be staying off the field while the national anthem was played. However, when the national anthem began playing, one player appeared just outside the tunnel with his hand over his heart.
That one player was offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan.
The entire Pittsburgh Steelers team stayed in the locker room for national anthem except for Villanueva who served 3 tours in Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/6kvGDls8wQ
— Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) September 24, 2017
Now, Villanueva is planning something special for Veterans Day weekend. For the Steelers game on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, Villanueva has given each one of his teammates an Army decal to wear on their helmets out of respect for the troops.
According to ESPN, he said:
"It's just a small-unit patch that really doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but the history behind it means the whole world to a lot of veterans.
They died for that patch. When you watch the Steelers on Sunday and you see the flash of the 10th [Mountain] division and the 7th [Infantry] division ... you're calling out specific units."
He is pairing the decals with players whose personalities match the spirit of a specific division. Villanueva received the decals from the Army football team and said he has cleared their game-day usage through the Steelers.
As an example of his process, Villanueva will give right tackle Chris Hubbardthe 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” Division decal because the player and division are known for reserved but efficient workmanship. Backup quarterback Landry Jones gets the 1st Armored Division in part because Jones knows Villanueva's brother-in-law, who served with that division.
ESPN shared a video showing Villanueva walking around the locker room handing out decals to each player:
This is refreshing to see.