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Harbaugh, Michigan conquer Rome in a day

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Rome — Perhaps few in Rome are familiar with Jim Harbaugh, but he made himself known as the Wolverines spread themselves around the Italian capital Monday.

“I love Meechigahn!” one Italian man yelled happily. Some self-proclaimed San Francisco 49ers fans said they loved him when he was an NFL coach. And one young BYU alum approached to ask for a selfie.

“Love how you’re spreading this thing around,” he told Harbaugh.

Sights, sounds from Michigan's second day in Italy

Harbaugh was “on” from the moment he arrived for Monday’s tour — which began at 9 a.m. on the Spanish Steps and ended at 6 p.m. after a lengthy visit to the Colosseum — even stopping to take a picture of local media.

This trip, his brainchild last summer, was to create a unique educational opportunity for his players, while also getting in their final three spring practices. A side benefit has been the time he has been able to spend with his parents and family.

His parents, Jack and Jackie, and daughter Addie were along for a day of sightseeing, and Harbaugh was particularly attentive to his father as they bartered for his very first selfie stick.

“We’ll catch up!” Harbaugh yelled to their tour guide. “We’re doing something!”

Jack Harbaugh ended up paying 15 euro for the same stick Jim Harbaugh had purchased earlier for 5 euro.

“That’s a heck of a deal,” Jack Harbaugh said, laughing hard.

“That’s a good deal, it’s a good deal,” Jim Harbaugh said, happily nodding his head.

Jack Harbaugh could not be stopped until he had taken so many pictures with his newfound accessory that he drained his cellphone battery.

The team was divided into groups named for Roman emperors. Harbaugh was part of the Trajan group.

When they reached Trajan’s Column, quarterback Wilton Speight and Harbaugh, a former quarterback, engaged in a conversation only quarterbacks would have.

The first Big House: Michigan players impressed by Colosseum

“Could you hit it?” Harbaugh asked Speight.

“I think I could probably get it up on top,” Speight said.

“Way up there? That would be about a 90-yard throw up there,” Harbaugh said.

Speight made it clear he did not plan to make an attempt.

“I’m not trying to get kicked out of Rome on Day 1,” he said, laughing as Harbaugh joined in adding he didn’t ask Speight to throw it, only if he could.

UM’s Harbaugh makes his wish: ‘A championship’

It was also an important morning for Harbaugh to spend with Addie. Later in the day when the team toured the Colosseum, his wife, Sarah, and their children, including newborn, John, joined him.

Harbaugh and Addie dropped by a fruit market during a small break in the tour and sampled cantaloupe and called it the “original organic.” Addie got a box of tiny strawberries.

And with Addie by his side and the team visiting the famous Trevi Fountain in the morning, he was told about the different meanings for throwing coins into the fountain. There are different variations, but typically the first coin tossed over your shoulder ensures you will return to Rome, and the second is to make a wish.

Harbaugh tossed two coins and quickly spilled what he wished for.

“A championship,” Harbaugh said, smiling broadly. “The highest one.”

Addie, understanding that wishes are meant to be kept secret, playfully smacked her father in the stomach, upset that he shared his wish.

“Did I jinx myself?” he said, laughing.