Jim Harbaugh presents Pope Francis with Michigan-themed gifts during team visit to the Vatican
Pope Francis now owns a Michigan football helmet — and a pair of blue-and-maize Jordans to go with it.
The matching helmet and footwear were presented to the head of the Catholic Church on Wednesday by Wolverines Coach Jim Harbaugh, who was visiting the Vatican with his players and coaches as part of the team’s weeklong trip to Rome.
“He looked at the helmet and he took the pair of Jordan sneakers … and he smiled and nodded his head and then gave it to somebody next to him,” Harbaugh told reporters after the pope’s weekly address at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. “I’m not sure the Holy Father knows a lot about football Americano, but he doesn’t need to.”
“I’d like to see him in those Jordans,” said Sarah Harbaugh, who met the pope with her husband.
She said the experience was a big deal for both of them.
“Afterwards when someone had come to us for a statement, he couldn’t speak, so he looked at me and I’ve never seen my husband at a loss for words,” she said. “He said, ‘You go.’ I couldn’t go either, but I felt like if he’s asking me I’ve got to say something. So who knows what I said because it was right afterwards. I was still very emotional. I think I was crying. He was at a loss. He felt a true life-changing experience as well.”
The Wolverines have been seeing the sights all week and also have three practices planned before returning home. The university stated Tuesday that the Vatican visit and all the other activities during the trip were optional for the players and coaches.
It appears the brief encounter with the pope will be a highlight of the trip for Harbaugh.
“The experience was emotional, it was beautiful,” he said. “The Holy Father’s face is beautiful. His smile. The way he talks is peaceful. It’s calm. It felt like this is what it would be like to meet Jesus Christ. That’s what it felt like to me. Very emotional.
“I said, ‘Buenos dias, Santo Padre [Good morning, Holy Father],’ and then my wife came in and told the Holy Father that she loved him. He held my hand and prayed, then he asked we pray for him, and don’t forget. That was very emotional.”