Michigan announced in January that it was planning a trip to Italy for its football team. While NCAA basketball teams often times make offseason trips overseas, combining games against national club teams with educational and cultural learning opportunities, this is an unprecedented trip for a football team in the offseason.
The Wolverines are scheduled to be in Rome from April 22-30, mixing football with non-football activities, such as tours of the ancient city, a visit to U.S. troops and a trip to the Vatican. The final three spring practices will be held on the trip, including a scrimmage on April 29.
An anonymous donor is funding the team excursion.
It will be the first trip out of the country for several of the players. Land of 10 has compiled some of the best answers to questions about the trip from players and coaches since the announcement was made. How many already had passports? What are they most looking forward to seeing? Anyone speak Italian?
Here are some of the responses we heard:
Chase Winovich, RS Jr., DE
Q: Ever have a passport before?
“See, I was lucky. I grew in a family [that traveled], and people used to ask my parents why they would take us everywhere. I think it’s just because they love me and the rest of my family a lot.
“I’ve had a passport all my life. I’ve been to the Caribbean. I’ve been to London for six weeks. I’ve been to Rome. I’ve been to California, Hawaii – all over the place.”
Q: So, you’ve been to Rome?
“I’ve been to Rome. I can definitely try to assist some of the younger players who may have not been there – well, I guess the older players, too – but I can try to assist and lend some of my expertise of the area.”
Q: Have you seen the Colosseum before?
“I have. It’s something magnificent. It’s something to behold, for sure.”
Keith Washington, Jr., CB
Q: What are you looking forward to the most in Rome?
“The Vatican. Definitely, the Vatican. Every time I tell somebody I’m going to Rome, they say you’ve got to go to the Vatican.”
Q: Is this another example of coach Jim Harbaugh thinking outside the box?
“It’s definitely another example of him doing something outside the box but it’s also him just trying to give us an opportunity that a lot of us probably wouldn’t be able to do without being a part of Michigan football.”
Q: You’re also doing a study abroad program? Where?
“Yes, I’m going to Argentina.”
Q: What are you studying?
“Sports and culture. The study abroad trip is something I wanted to do in the summertime. They gave me the opportunity and I took it.”
Q: How’s your Spanish?
“It’s pretty good. I’ve still got to work on a few things.”
Josh Metellus, Soph., S
Q: Do you have a passport?
“I just got one.”
Q: How quickly did you have to get it?
“As soon as I found out we were going to Rome, I got it.”
Q: What was the reaction when you heard about the trip?
“It was crazy. I’ve never been outside the country, and now we’re going to Rome, one of the most beautiful places in the world. I was surprised.”
Q: When you think of Rome, what do you think of?
“I just want to see the Colosseum. I want to see where the gladiators fought.”
Ty Isaac, RS Sr., RB
Q: Are you excited about going to Italy?
“Yeah. I’ve got to get over the flight, but other than that, we’ll be good.”
Q: Don’t like flying?
“No, I don’t like flying.”
Q: It’s a 7- or 8-hour flight.
“Yeah, I know. It’s too long. I’m going to have to figure out how to make it. I might have to stay up all night before.”
Mike McCray, RS Sr., LB
Q: Have you been out of the country before?
“This will be my first time.”
Q: Are you OK with flying?
“I love flying. I don’t have a problem with it. It should be fun. It’s a long flight. Just have fun on the plane, and when we get there it should be a great experience.”
Q: What was your reaction to hearing about the trip?
“At first we were shocked because we weren’t expecting it, but after a while and as we get closer there’s more excitement.”
Q: How did Harbaugh tell you?
“It was in a meeting. That’s just how he is.”
Q: Were you sure he didn’t mean Rome, Ga.?
“I knew he was talking about Rome, Italy, because he was really excited about it. It had to be something real big.”
Q: What are you looking forward to with the trip?
“Just going out there and sightseeing because I’ve never been out of the country. Being able to go to one of the greatest places, Italy. I’m just ready to sightsee.
Q: What’s the most exotic place you’ve been to?
“I’ve never been to an exotic place before.”
Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Sr., OL
Q: Did you have a passport before now?
Q: How quickly did you have to get one?
“We’re all set up now, but it was a real eye-opener to be able to travel and go across the seas. I’ve never had an experience like that, so I’m excited.”
Q: What was your reaction to hearing about the trip?
“I was kind of shocked, but I know not to be surprised by [coach Harbaugh] any more. He likes to do a lot of crazy stuff, so I’m excited about it.
Q: Anything in particular you’re excited to see or do?
“Just being able to travel. I’ve never been out of the country, so that’s going to be a good experience, to see different things, and to move out of the box I’ve been in.”
Ben Bredeson, Soph., OL
Q: What was it like when you heard about the trip?
“I was ecstatic. I had no idea it was coming when we got the message. When I was told about it, immediately a smile came to my face. I thought this was the coolest idea in the world. I left the building, went right out to the parking lot and called my mom. I told her I was getting to go to Rome for a week.
“It was a couple of days later that I found out we could do the study abroad opportunities. [Bredeson is going to Barcelona for a study abroad program after Rome.] Well, I can spend about a month in Europe learning and seeing everything. She was real excited about it because she had done a trip to Europe when she was about 20. She always wanted me to do it but I never thought I’d get the chance with football, but football provided it.”
Q: Are you well-traveled?
“Not very well-traveled. I’ve stayed close to home but I’m excited about it.”
Q: Done any pre-trip research?
“Oh yeah, trust me, Mom has looked into this. She’s not letting me go a day without talking about it. I’ve looked into just about everything; where we’re staying, where we’re going to go, things to see. I’m excited about it.”
Q: How’s your Italian/Spanish?
“We’re about to find out what six years of middle school and high school Spanish turns into. Italian? That’s not there.”
Tim Drevno, offensive coordinator
“I’m really excited about it. To be able to take the players over there, [and] my wife is going to come. Just to experience that as a team – what a great team bonding. To share with the Italian people in Italy the American game of football and take our players to different places, and see the great history of Europe and Italy. There’s nothing better for the guys than to get on a plane, go and stay together and practice over there. It’s going to be a phenomenal experience, so I’m excited about it. It’s going to be fun.”
Don Brown, defensive coordinator
“What a great opportunity for our players. To have that opportunity, where they’re the only ones in college football that will get that opportunity this year. You don’t take that for granted.
“For me, we’ve still got three practices over there. I’ve got to think about getting ready for Air Force [on Sept. 16] and the triple-option, so that’s going to be the majority of my time. But I’m looking forward to going to Rome. Coach (Harbaugh) has a tremendous plan for our players to experience that culture. I’m pretty excited.”