ROME — The Vatican’s dress code is absolute: no exposed shoulders or short skirts, and coverings are available for those who come unprepared.
But Michigan Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh doesn’t miss a trick. He’s got that box checked, too, as players on Wednesday during an audience with Pope Francis will wear blazers, ties, and — you guessed it — khakis.
“Khakis,” defensive lineman Salim Makki cracked Sunday. “Of course.”
Makki is one of two Wolverines players, along with tackle Grant Newsome, who have been chosen to sit with Harbaugh and his wife, Sarah, nearest to the pope. They are expected to present him with a custom Michigan helmet that features a papal signature, a small cross and three stickers along the back: two decals with the flags of Italy and the United States locked in an “X” formation, and a box with the number “266” written in blue, in honor of Pope Francis being the 266th head of the Catholic Church.
— Michigan Equipment (@HailEquipment) April 21, 2017
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Makki said. “I think we’re going to be up with Coach [Harbaugh], where he is. Right up [front].”
‘We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.’
— Michigan defensive tackle Salim Makki
Close enough to touch?
“He might just walk by us,” Makki countered. “We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.
“Either way, just seeing the pope himself [is a reward].”
A reward Newsome and Makki earned on the strength of individual essays written in a contest Harbaugh held among his players to see who could make the strongest case to join him and his wife at the front of the service.
Makki was raised Muslim, and both his parents grew up in Sierra Leone.
“Coach sent us an email saying, ‘Why is it important to you?’” recalled Makki, who said he finished his essay within an hour. “I don’t know how many people submitted [entries]. I read it, and I was like, ‘That’s awesome.’”