The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 48 days away. From now until then, this Web site will count down the days with facts about the Wildcats, their players, coaching staff and opponents. This is not a ranking, only a list of 100 facts and observances related to the 2013 Arizona football team and coach Rich Rodriguez.
Byron Evans joins this site’s All-Time All-Pac-10/12 Team completing a linebacker crew, including Ricky Hunley and Lance Briggs, that is difficult for any other school to match.
Rob Gronkowski, another No. 48 for Arizona honored with today being 48 days until kickoff, is the best tight end since the school joined the Pac-10 in 1978.
No. 48 for Arizona is quite a number. Nobody on this year’s roster is listed with No. 48, which is fitting because that player would be hard pressed to match the exploits of Evans and Gronkowski.
Evans, Hunley and Briggs combined for eight first-team all-conference selections, two Pac-10 defensive players of the year (won by Evans and Hunley), and 1,426 tackles (school-record 566 by Hunley, 552 by Evans and 308 by Briggs, who started his UA career as a fullback). They also combine for 26 years in the NFL. Briggs is in his 12th season with Chicago.
Gronkowski, one of only two UA tight ends chosen first-team All-Pac-10 (Ron Beyer in 1978 is the other), came one touchdown reception shy of tying the school record in 2008. He had 10 touchdown receptions, one behind Juron Criner, Mike Thomas and “T” Bell — three of the most accomplished wide receivers in UA history.
Gronkowski’s 12-reception game at Oregon in 2008 is legendary. An Arizona player has caught at least 10 passes in a game 31 times. Gronkowski is the only tight end in that group.
Put this into perspective about Evans: During his senior season at Arizona in 1986, he averaged 17.3 tackles per game as a middle linebacker. The Wildcats’ leading tackler last year was senior linebacker Jake Fischer, who averaged 9.9.
Since the Wildcats joined the Pac-10 in 1978, Hunley and Evans are the only players to register at least 100 unassisted tackles in a season. Hunley achieved 100 in 1982, and Evans posted 118 in 1985 and 111 in 1986.
After Evans achieved 196 overall tackles in 1986, nobody has come close to that mark. The closest was Marcus Bell with 139 in 1998.
Evans was Arizona’s captain his senior season, when he was selected the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. A fourth-round draft choice by Philadelphia in 1987, he played eight years with the Eagles, becoming a team captain with a unit that had defensive stars.
Some of his teammates included Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Clyde Simmons, Eric Allen, Seth Joyner and William Thomas.
“To be named one of the captains, you had to trust the person and really believe in what they were doing,” Evans was quoted as saying by PhiladelphiaEagles.com. “They believed that you were a leader and that made me feel real good.”
His former coach at Philadelphia, Buddy Ryan, a noted defensive mastermind, once called Evans, “the hardest hitting middle linebacker in the NFL.”
Evans and Gronkowski were two of the more animated players at Arizona. They were not shy.
ESPNBoston.com columnist Jackie MacMullen wrote a terrific story on Gronkowski on Jan. 12, 2012. She ended the piece appropriately this way:
“Rob Gronkowski is only 22 years old. He is an NFL star, a marketing dream, the best Gronk of them all. But mostly, he’s still just a big kid who loves his mom, playing football and having a blast.”
Last year, I ran a Top 50 Games in the history of Arizona football series at this site and TucsonCitizen.com. I will relive that list here with less than 50 days to kickoff and add one game to it: Arizona’s improbable 49-48 win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl last December. I will keep the ranking of that game secret in the new top 50 list until the day I publish it.
No. 48 — Arizona’s first game at Arizona Stadium in 1929, a 35-0 win over Cal Tech
The Jim Thorpe Award watch list was announced Friday. The watch-list announcements will continue through July 19. This site will update after the announcements.
The current Pac-12 breakdown (by school) of players on the watch lists:
1. Stanford 15
2. USC 13
3. ASU 11
5. Oregon State 7
7. Washington 4
8. Colorado 3
9. Arizona 2
Washington State 2
11. Utah 1
2013 COLLEGE FOOTBALL WATCH LISTS
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WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.