Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008 | 11:25 p.m.
Apparently Arizona football coach Mike Stoops loves winter weather.
Despite the frigid temperatures and the steady snowfall Wednesday, Mike Stoops kept his team on the practice field at UNLV's Rebel Park 45 minutes past the practice's scheduled ending.
Still dripping from the rain and snow that pelted his team for more than two hours, Stoops pitched the company line about weather not being a factor in the outcome of Saturday's Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl.
"I think we had a really good practice," Stoops said. "I like what our kids are doing. It was a little bad out there, but I thought we got a lot of good work in today… For us it's just different. For our kids it's new to them to see this type of weather. I thought we handled it well and if that's the way it is Saturday night, then we should be acclimated."
None of Stoops' players would admit that the weather was a distraction Wednesday, but the team from Tucson is not exactly a bunch of frozen tundra warriors.
Of the 113 players in Arizona's program, only nine are from states north of the Mason Dixon line.
For many of the Wildcats, Wednesday's snowstorm was the first time they saw the white precipitation.
"There were a few inches on the ground when I took a recruiting trip to Notre Dame, but other than that, this is the first time I've seen snow," said linebacker and Houston native Ronnie Palmer.
For tight end Rob Gronkowski, the snowy practice was a welcome reminder of home. Gronkowski grew up outside of Buffalo before moving to Pittsburgh for his senior year of high school.
"I haven't been in the snow for a while, but you just have to stay warm," Gronkowski said. "You always have to be moving around during practice and during the game. Just keep moving to stay warm."
The Wildcats have two more days to acclimate themselves to the odd winter wonderland that Las Vegas has become. BYU, however, probably feels like it never left Provo.
Gronkowski named to All-American team
The Associated Press named Gronkowski to the third-team All-America squad Wednesday morning.
Gronkowski, who holds the Arizona records for records for single game, single season and career figures in tight end receptions, yards and touchdowns, was a unanimous first-team All-Pac-10 selection this season.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end has become quarterback Willie Tuitama's favorite red zone target with a team-high 10 touchdown receptions this season.
"He's a big guy," Tuitama said. "That's the main thing. When you have him in short yardage situations in the red zone and the window's get a little smaller. Having him you can put it up a little bit and he'll get it. That's the great thing about him. He knows how to use his body to shield off defenders and he does a good job catching the ball."
Gronkowski has hauled in 43 catches for 645 yards this season despite missing the first three games of the year due to an injury.
He joins former Wildcats Antoine Cason (CB, 2007, 1st team), Danny Baugher (P, 2005, 3rd team), Dennis Northcutt (WR, 1999, 1st team) and Trung Canidate (B, 1999, 3rd team) in being named to an All-American team.
"I didn't know when I would come back, but I knew I had to come out strong," Gronkowski said. "It's really exciting to have this honor."
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].