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Univision Founder Villanueva Made His Mark

Daniel Villanueva, founder of Univision, is remembered in the New York Times as an elite athlete, savvy businessman, and by all indications, a funny and cool guy. Villanueva died last week at 77.

Born to Mexican missionaries in New Mexico, he was one of the first Hispanic-Americans to play in the NFL, place-kicking and punting for the Los Angeles Rams and the Dallas Cowboys. To support his modest football income, he was a sports announcer at KMEX, which the Times describes as an "obscure" Spanish-language station at the time. After being traded to Dallas, he commuted to KMEX via airplane, and competed in the so called Ice Bowl—the 1967 NFL championship game at Lambeau Field. That game, Villanueva said, drove him to retire a year later.

KMEX became the flagship station for the Spanish International Network, and Villanueva later became owner and senior VP of the network's parent, Spanish International Communications Corporation. In 1987, the group's stations were sold to Hallmark and renamed Univision. Villanueva stuck around until 1990, and later worked with Telemundo.

He shows a cutting sense of humor in the obit. Writes the Times:

Long after he became a multimillionaire, Mr. Villanueva looked back with amusement on his four-figure N.F.L. salary. After he signed with the Rams, he told in 2008, the team informed him that the size of his paycheck was not to be made public.

“I’m glad,” Mr. Villanueva said he replied. “Because I’m as ashamed of it as you are.”

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.