The Wolverine

June-July 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 27 of 75

28 THE WOLVERINE JUNE/JULY 2017 ing but hail the idea. "My hat's off to Jim Harbaugh," he offered on SportsCenter. "He nailed it on this one … "I think this is one of the most posi- tive and maybe the best story of the year in college football. This is what a college experience should be about." ESPN's Marty Smith went farther. The network embedded him on the excursion, and he waxed eloquent about it. "You can see how taken aback they all are by the opportunity," Smith related. "It's not just, 'Oh, here's the Spanish Steps, here's the Pantheon.' While they've done that, they have toured the city. "They also have been immersed in different cultures. When they first got here on Sunday, they immediately boarded buses and made their way over to this gardens area and met with refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Nigeria, and fellowshipped with them, threw American football with them, kicked futbol — soccer balls — and heard their stories of strife and everything they're managing. "They were reminded, I was re- minded, our team here was reminded, of the power of a smile, of the power of an embrace, how that emboldens you and empowers you." Smith insisted he earned a deeper understanding of Michigan's coach as well. "He takes a whole lot of crap for bringing his kids here and the whole IMG Academy thing last year, but trust me, he [doesn't] care," Smith noted. "I was talking with Wilton Speight, his quarterback, on Sunday, and he said, 'Yeah, he [doesn't] care. He [doesn't] care about criticism. He cares about us.' And that's readily ob- vious." Smith listened carefully to Har- baugh's musings about Michigan's venture to Rome, and it resonated. "He said, 'Education is about so much more than a football field or a classroom. They're going to taste things they've never tasted. They're going to see things they've never seen. They're going to learn things they've never known. And they're going to hear things they've never heard,'" Smith related. "And he kind of grinned and said, 'Tell me that's not education.' I completely agree with him." Smith recalled being in the Pan- theon, with Harbaugh taking pictures. "He gathers his whole family to- gether, and they go up to the front of the area," Smith said. "They all kneel, and they gather together, and they say this audible family prayer together. And it was so real. "It wasn't for show. I happened to be sitting on one of the pews behind them. I just happened to be sitting there and see it. To me, it says a lot about how genuine this is for him." Left: Fifth-year senior offensive lineman Greg Froelich and graduate assistant Al Netter show off the results from a pizza-making competition. Right: The Sistine Chapel was among many of the world-renowned sights the Wolverines were able to see for themselves during the trip. PHOTOS COURTESY MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Above: The Wolverines are suited up to com- pete on the paintball field. Left: Don Brown after playing paintball. PHOTOS COURTESY MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Above: Marty Smith of ESPN and Sean Magee, director of player personnel, during the paintball competition. PHOTO COURTESY SEAN MAGEE

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