According to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the entire team was supposed to be with Villanueva but were cut off my people leaving the field.
“We butchered our plan to sort of have a response for the national anthem and respect everyone’s opinions,” said Villanueva. “When everybody sees an image of me standing by myself, everybody thinks the team and the Steelers are not behind me and that’s absolutely wrong.”
NORTH TEXAS (CBS11) – An NFL player who chose to stand for the national anthem when the rest of his team did not on Sunday, has a special connection to a North Texas family.
Pittsburgh Steeler Alejandro Villanueva stood alone, hand over heart, during the national anthem.
Before he was an offensive tackle with the Steelers, Villanueva was an Army Ranger. He served three tours of duty in Afghanistan, serving as platoon leader for Specialist Jesse Dietrich of Rendon, south of Fort Worth.
“He always wanted to be a soldier, even when he was a kid,” said Dietrich’s sister, Jocelyn.
Jesse was a young father.
He joined the military to provide for his son and continue a family tradition of military service. In August 2011, Jesse was killed in action.
“They were out doing patrol, and they were caught under enemy fire,” said Jocelyn. (Jesse) was shot in the rib cage. Alex is the one who pulled him out of the fire.”
While he couldn’t save Jesse, “Alex,” as he’s known the the Dietrich family, gave them a gift they’ll never be able to repay.
“We were blessed to get all of him back because there are some soldiers that come back in pieces or not at all,” said his sister. “Because (Villanueva) did what he did, we were able to get all of him back.”
To them, Villanueva’s decision to stand alone before Sunday’s game wasn’t a question. Neither is what Jesse would think of players who take a knee.
“I think he’d kind of be enraged a little bit about people not honoring the sacrifice of other soldiers,” said Jocelyn Deitrich.
Jocelyn says Villanueva calls the Dietriches twice a year: On Memorial Day and the anniversary of Jesse’s death. He checks up on Jesse’s son who was two when Jesse died. His son is now 8 years old.