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Alejandro Villanueva's Steelers merchandise becomes No. 1 seller in 24-hour span

Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva's merchandise is in high demand after he stood alone outside a tunnel at Soldier Field during the national anthem on Sunday.

Villanueva — a former Army Ranger and graduate of West Point — had the top-selling merchandise among any NFL player on Fanatics.com and NFLShop.com in the 24 hours after kickoff of the Steelers-Chicago Bears game, Fanatics vice president of communications Meier Raivich confirmed to USA TODAY Sports in an email. (Fanatics runs NFLShop.com.) Villanueva's No. 78 jersey was also the top seller of any NFL player during the same span.

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Villanueva beat New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who were Nos. 2 and 3 for jerseys and overall merchandise in that span.

Alejandro Villanueva #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stands by himself in the tunnel for the national anthem prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.
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Alejandro Villanueva #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stands by himself in the tunnel for the national anthem prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

The Steelers announced Sunday morning that the team would not be on the sideline during the national anthem as mandated since 2009 by the NFL — a response to potential protests over President Donald Trump's remarks at a rally on Friday and in subsequent Twitter messages. NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart told reporters Monday that the Steelers, along with two other teams that did not take the field for the anthem — the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks — would not face league punishment.

"We're not participating in the anthem today — not to be disrespectful to the anthem, but to remove ourselves from the circumstance," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told CBS.

Villanueva, with his hand over his heart, could be seen outside the tunnel while the anthem played.

ALEJANDRO VILLANUEVA BIO

Age: 29

Birthplace: Meridian, Miss.

College: Graduated United States Military Academy (West Point) in 2010

Military service: Three tours in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger

Military honors: Earned two Bronze Star Medals, including the "V" (Valor) for rescuing wounded soldiers while under fire in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan. National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman's Badge and Expert Infantryman's Badge

NFL career: Signed as a rookie free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles in May 2014. After he was cut during training camp, the Steelers signed him to the practice squad, and he worked his way up to the 53-man roster for the 2015 season. Villanueva was inked to a four-year contract by the Steelers in July. He's appeared in 35 games, starting 29 times.

Crossover appeal: Villanueva's likeness can be seen not only in Madden NFL, but also in the upcoming release of Call of Duty: WWII

Sources: USA TODAY Sports research, Army Times

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