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Former NMSU, Dallas Cowboys player Danny Villanueva has died

New Mexico State University hall of famer Danny Nueva has died, according to the university. He was 77.

Villanueva recently suffered a stroke, his son, Danny Jr. said.

Villanueva was a punter for the Aggies in the ‘50s and went on to play for the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams. He was one of the earliest players of Mexican descent to play in the NFL.

A native of Tucumcari, Villanueva came to New Mexico State University on a football scholarship and was a member of the team that won the Sun Bowl in 1959. He also was editor of the Round Up, the student newspaper, according to NMSU’s official website.

Once his playing career in the NFL ended, he found success and national prominence in Spanish-language broadcasting.

As news director of KMEX-TV in Los Angeles, he led the station to a Peabody Award, one of broadcast journalism’s highest honors. In 1970, he hired Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Salazar to work at KMEX. It was during his time at KMEX while covering a Vietnam protest in summer 1970 that Ruben Salazar was killed.

Villanueva rose through KMEX’s ranks and was senior vice president of Spanish International Communications Corp., which owned KMEX and other stations, from 1971 until the company was acquired by Univision Holdings in 1986.

Villanueva remained with Univision until 1990, when he became a founding partner of Bastion Capital Corp. in Los Angeles, a venture capital firm. Bastion is a partner in the Telemundo television network and other companies in the United States and Mexico.

“We are sad to report that Aggie great Danny Villanueva has passed away. Danny was a great friend to the program and was a fixture at many home football games. The third floor of the Fulton center is named the Danny Villanueva Victory Club and his presence on game days will be missed. RIP Danny,” NMSU officials posted on their social media accounts.

The NFL interviewed Villanueva as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month in 2014. Watch that interview at

More On Villanueva’s Life And Connection To NMSU

In 1991, he established the Danny Villanueva Scholarship Endowment to recognize NMSU students who excel in leadership and community involvement. The endowment has funded more than 40 scholarships to students through the NMSU Foundation.

Fundraising for the scholarship endowment started with golf tournaments, but a suggestion from NMSU’s Chicano Programs resulted in the establishment of an annual breakfast, which brought national leaders to the university and raised $500,000 for the endowment.

“Danny Villanueva had a heart for New Mexico State University,” said Cheryl Harrelson, Vice President of University Advancement and President of the NMSU Foundation. “Through his generosity, many students were able to attend NMSU, but it wasn’t just his generosity that impacted the university. It was his belief that everyone deserved an education, and NMSU was a worthy organization to provide it.”

In 1999, NMSU awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Villanueva was a key contributor to the “Doing What Counts” fundraising campaign in the early 2000s. He served as chair of the campaign and donated one of the anchor gifts, designating a portion of that gift to Myrna’s Children’s Village, a preschool program that serves children of students and faculty and staff. The program was named in honor of Danny’s wife as a birthday present.

In 2002, Villanueva presented a major gift toward the university’s stadium annex project, later known as the Fulton Center. It serves academic as well as athletic purposes, and Villanueva’s gift funded the Danny Villanueva Victory Club dining facility.

“New Mexico State football and the entire athletics department lost a true legend with the passing of Danny Villanueva,” said NMSU Athletic Director Mario Moccia. “Danny was a Hall of Famer, one of the greatest Aggie football players of all-time. His passing makes today a very sad one for all of AggieNation. I personally feel very fortunate to have met him and spent time with him and his friends who expressed bright days ahead for our athletic program.

“We will be memorializing him this upcoming season and will be announcing those plans at a more appropriate time. Our thoughts and prayers are with his entire family during this difficult time.”

In 2007, Villanueva joined a team of investors to build Arrowhead Research Park. Now Arrowhead Park is a public-private land development partnership that links research, industry and entrepreneurs contributing to economic development in New Mexico and the surrounding region.

Villanueva was a member of the NMSU Foundation Board of Directors, ending his term in December of 2014.

“Danny will live on forever in our hearts, and throughout our campus,” Harrelson said. “We are a better university because of him, and that will never be forgotten.”

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