Paris, France — No one looked more battered and paint-splattered than Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin, who clearly enjoyed taking everyone’s best shot in the Wolverines’ second annual European paintball outing.
Most of the players opted to wear full-body coverups along with the required helmet. Nordin, who famously wore a “Wild Thing” haircut last season, went with a sleeveless top. His arms were peppered with welts from the paint balls that dripped yellow paint.
What was his strategy?
“Just ran in there and tried to win for Michigan,” Nordin said, laughing. “Big team guy.”
When asked why the sleeveless look, he credited his hometown.
“I’m from Grand Rapids,” Nordin said. “We don’t wear sleeves in Grand Rapids.”
Even defensive coordinator Don Brown participated in the paintball game.
“He’s always in the mix,” offensive lineman Stephen Spanellis said of Brown, before using the coach’s favorite word to compliment players. “He’s a dude.”
The Paris experience has meant something different for each player.
Early enrollee freshman quarterback Joe Milton was asked Monday how his experience has been. Upon arrival at the team’s Paris hotel, Milton and teammate Nico Collins returned to the team check-in area and modeled the hotel robes for their teammates.
“Bonjour,” Milton said, stretching out the word and using his hands for emphasis and to draw laughs. “The experience is nice. I’ve never been out of the country, so it’s been a nice experience. Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Seeing everybody with their little hats. I’m going to buy me one.”
Spanellis and linemate Ben Bredeson had been talking about this trip to Paris since the team’s trip to Rome last spring, the first that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has led abroad.
“We feel so grateful that we get this opportunity because we understand no other college football teams get this opportunity,” Spanellis said. “I guess there are certain kids in our age group that do get this opportunity, but not specifically football players. We’re super grateful we get this opportunity.
“I didn’t know when I came here that I’d get this opportunity, but if I had it would definitely have bolstered Michigan in my eyes.”
The trip has offered a wide-range of activities, from vising the Louvre and seeing the Mona Lisa to the emotional trip to Normandy to paintball. Spanellis is more interested in seeing “something cultural” so while the paintball competition might not have been at the top of the list, the trip later in the day to the palace of Versailles was on his to-do list.
“It’s definitely fun,” Spanellis said of the trip. “You get to hang out with your teammates, get a chance to see that side of the coaches you usually don’t see. You usually don’t see a guy like coach (Chris) Partridge playing goalie (in pickup soccer). That’s pretty intense.”
The most emotionally intense day was the trip to Normandy on Sunday, including a visit to the American cemetery.
“The respect I have for all those guys,” quarterback Brandon Peters said of those who gave their lives in World War II during the Normandy Invasion. “Being able to see that history was pretty cool.”
Adjusting to the weather
Milton is from Florida, so that made for an interesting weather transition when he arrived in Michigan in January just in time for the glorious winter grind.
“At first when I first got up here with my mom, it was like, ‘This is nothing. I can do this,’ ” Milton said. “But once she left it was like, ‘Whoa.’ I had to buy like five coats. I didn’t buy them but the school gave me five. Every morning I’ve got to put on three coats. It gets too cold. It was like in the negatives, so I had to get dressed properly.”