The Wolverine

June July 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JUNE/JULY 2018 THE WOLVERINE 21 It was a life-changing moment on a life-changing trip, many of them said. "It's not about X's and O's any- more," said Kabongo-Kooper, a former Judson University (Illinois) basketball player and admitted Syracuse wan- nabe, speaker of five languages with a law degree from McGill in Montreal. "It's about, these are human beings, giving them back some dignity. "A lot of the people out there don't care about the food. They just want to have conversation. But giving them something to eat brings that barrier down, and you don't have to speak French to do this. It's human interac- tion, talking to someone." Newsome, almost a de facto captain now with the way he's represented the program and led the team while rehab- bing a traumatic knee injury, summed it up best. "I think it's really just the gesture and proving that humanity has a com- mon language — just helping out those who are less fortunate no matter where we are," Newsome said. "Any time we can go somewhere and we have a plat- form, it's important for us as athletes and us as students with a great univer- sity behind us to give back." "It kind of has to do with the reflec- tion of why we came in the first place, and that's to be very well-rounded hu- man beings and be the best possible people we can be," fifth-year senior end Chase Winovich added. "That's kind of what we aspire to. Those as- pects will carry over for us later in life." A ROUSING SUCCESS All in all, Michigan's trip to France and its effect is something that truly needs to be seen to be appreciated. Rivals might try to decry it as an un- fair recruiting advantage, while others continue to criticize it as a potential distraction. "I'd rather see them take a trip to Indianapolis [for the Big Ten Cham- pionship Game]," one former player tweeted. The good news is that's not an ei- ther/or proposition, and the Wolver- ines are intent on doing both this year. This experience, though, was memo- rable for all involved. "You can't put a value on it," Har- baugh said. "I thank Bobby Kotick for having the vision to endow this, and Don Graham helped out this year. Two great Michigan guys. The amount of vision or knowledge or experience this group of players gets out of this is priceless. You can't put a value on it. It's a wonderful experience. "It's interesting. One of the parents Josh Selzer, [walk-on tight end] Carter Selzer's dad, said 30 years from now you won't remember games that you won and games that you lost, but you'll remember being in Paris with your buddies. I think I'll remember them all. I think I'll remember the wins, I think I'll remember the losses. I think there will be some I'd like to forget. But I think he's right … 30 years from now they're going to remember this experi- ence with their best friends in Paris." That included the less glamorous part — the time spent with refugees, "seeing another side of this great city," according to the coach. It was a humbling experience for a group of football players who were genuinely moved by it, and are already looking forward to next year. Africa — Cape Town and Johannes- burg — seems to be the leader for next year's trip, but they could go to Athens, Greece. Others have talked about Bar- celona and possibly even Cuba. "Bobby did the whole thing last year himself and said as long as we want to do it, he'll do it," Harbaugh said. "So he did all of last year and part of this year. Don Graham also split it [this year]. "There's nothing in writing or a com- mitment or anything other than two great Michigan guys, especially Bobby. Can you imagine? Yeah, it is [impres- sive]. And Bobby doesn't want any- thing said; he doesn't want anyone to know. It's a hard secret to keep. It's just who he is. In a great way, it's who he is." But the idea was Harbaugh's, and from a teaching and bonding stand- point, the trips have been an unbeliev- able success. ❏ The Wolverines dressed up and posed for several group pictures while in front of the iconic Eiffel Tower. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY Jim Harbaugh's players weren't the only pupils from Ann Arbor in France; the coach stopped to chat with U-M students studying abroad several times during the trip. PHOTO BY CHRIS BALAS The Wolverines were stopped for pictures with U-M fans, even while overseas. PHOTO BY CHRIS BALAS

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