Army-Navy press conference: QA with Ali Villanueva
Army Head Coach Rich Ellerson and senior captains Ali Villanueva and Victor Ugenyi met with the media today in Philadelphia to officially begin the countdown to the Army-Navy game. Below is a question and answer session with wide receiver Ali Villanueva.
GoBlackKnights.com: It's your senior year, you are going into your last Army-Navy game, how does it feel?
Ali Villanueva: It feels like the moment is right, the weather is right, the timing is right, the planets are aligning and now we need make sure that we go out there and finish this off with a good note.
GoBlackKnights.com: You are playing in the East West Shrine game as a tight end, how does it feel to be recognized with that?
Ali Villanueva: They told me two or three weeks ago. It was pretty flattering, especially after this whole movement to wide receiver.
GoBlackKnights.com: You have gotten so much publicity with the move to wide receiver, how has that been for you?
Ali Villanueva: It's been tough, it's been really tough. Dealing with the media is not easy at all. A lot of people criticize me, a lot of people don't know the facts, and sometimes they give their opinion. I'm trying my best every single week, I am learning new things and I don't see everything. I am still learning. Sometimes a corner covers me in a different way that I have never seen, not even in practice. So it can be difficult, especially during the game. We don't throw the ball that much, even in practice, to make the adjustments and react to the football. When the media sees that, they just criticize it. When I was on the offensive line, no one talked about the linemen. All they say is if they are good or not. And they usually talk about the line as a whole, not specific players. But as a wide receiver, it's just the player. No matter if you are doing something good or bad, you are doing it in front of everybody. Sometimes the comments just get frustrating, and that's the part I don't like about it, the attention. But other than that, I think it's been fun. It wasn't fun the first six games, but then I started relaxing a bit more, not focusing so much on what they are going to think about me tomorrow, and started to just enjoy it more.
GoBlackKnights.com: I remember at the spring game you made a catch for a long gain, a touchdown. You still looked like a lineman, and you were huffing and puffing after the play. How did you get into wide receiver shape?
Ali Villanueva: Actually, I didn't do much of anything. I though coach wanted me to slim down, be a leaner player. So that's what I focused on during spring ball and into the summer. Then I showed up at summer practice, I was down to 265 pounds, and I thought I was looking pretty good, but when Coach Ellerson saw me he was pretty mad. He wanted me back in weight room, lifting weights. He wanted me fast and strong. I never worry about what I eat, but at the same time running so much at practice, the season slims you down a little bit. I started the year at 283, I am probably down to 278 at this point.
GoBlackKnights.com: Going into your last Army-Navy game, it's a pretty crazy situation. You have lost seven straight to them. Three weeks ago, few people would have thought that you guys would be in this situation. You are now coming in with everything to play for, you break the streak, then you get to a bowl game.
Ali Villanueva: I think that's the beauty of this year. It's not just playing Army-Navy, this game actually matters to us for other reasons. Obviously if we had made the field goal against Tulane, we already would be bowl eligible, but at the same time it's all a part of the game and it makes you feel alive. Playing this game is going to be important to everybody - the coaches, fans, and players. We need to make sure that we understand the importance of the game and that we go out there and play it.
GoBlackKnights.com: What's the mentality of the team right now?
Ali Villanueva: Everybody is pretty relaxed right now. We are just making sure that we learn the plays and absorb the coaching points. Towards the Navy game, we will start assimilating all we have been learning, realize that the game is coming up, and we will have to focus and get ready to play a huge football game.
GoBlackKnights.com: The people around Army seem pretty confident that this is not the last game this season, that you guys are going to win and you will be going to a bowl game. Are you looking at it the same way?
Ali Villanueva: I don't know what is going to happen. I always try to look at it by focusing on my position. I am not going to look at what the fullback is doing or the offensive line is doing. I don't know how many catches I am going to have, I might drop all the balls, I might catch them. At the end it has to be a "W' and that's all that matters. They can come out and throw anything they want at us and it doesn't matter, we are going to win the football game.