NEW YORK - Pittsburgh Steelers’ lineman Alejandro Villanueva wore the name of a fallen Army hero on his helmet during Monday night’s game against the New York Giants, breaking away from the team’s decision to wear Antwon Rose Jr.’s name on their helmets for the entire season.
Villanueva, a former captain in the U.S. Army who served three tours in Afghanistan and became an Army Ranger before joining the NFL in 2014, was seen covering Rose’s name with that of Alwyn Cashe.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe died in 2005 after attempting to rescue fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle following a roadside bomb in Samarra, Iraq, on Oct. 17, according to the Military Times. He suffered second- and third-degree burns over 70 percent of his body, eventually succumbing to those injuries on Nov. 5.
He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
Villanueva was the sole member to deviate from the team’s plan to wear the name of Rose, a 17-year-old Black teen who was shot and killed by a police officer in 2018.
“This year the NFL is allowing players to wear helmet decals to honor victims of systemic racism. Players could select the name of an individual to wear on their helmet and the Steelers players and coaches united as one to wear a single name on the back of their helmets and hats for the entire 2020 season – Antwon Rose Jr.,” the team said on its website Monday.
Villanueva previously made headlines in 2017 when he stood alone outside the Steelers’ tunnel during the national anthem while his entire team remained behind. In June, following renewed calls to kneel during the national anthem in the wake of George Floyd’s death, Villanueva declined to speak about the issue.
“It was taken out of context the last time I talked about this issue. I will never speak on it again,” he said at the time.