Eagles' 6-9 rookie familiar with pressure

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
2:00
PM ET
Alejandro Villanueva signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a rookie free agent in May.

In a short span, Villanueva has learned a lot.

Yet there’s still a long way to go.

For the 6-foot-9 Villanueva, a former U.S. Army Ranger who received multiple deployments to Afghanistan, this is a new challenge worth embracing.

“I think I've learned a lot and come a long way in terms of the way the Eagles have prepared me physically and mentally,” Villanueva told Phillymag.com. “Hopefully I've made some improvements. I've got some time off right now to think about what just happened, and then go back to training camp and make sure that type of learning is there.”

Villanueva played a variety of positions at Army before heading to active military duty.

The Eagles are working him out on the defensive line.

Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro has been impressed thus far with Villanueva.

“You're looking at someone that from a physical standpoint has some great physical skills -- 6-foot-9, he has great reach, has really good athletic ability,” Azzinaro told Phillymag.com. “And then he has great character: his toughness, his ability to perform under pressure, those kinds of things are well-documented. So what we're going to try to do is see if we can make him into a four-technique.”

Villanueva will be competing against Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Cedric Thornton and rookie Taylor Hart, among others.

“For me, it's all uphill and that's the way I have to look -- is just up,” Villanueva said. “So hopefully this work that I've put in during this offseason will pay dividends in training camp.”

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