Yesterday, I saw a lot of search engine love for former Michigan Wolverines and current New England Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko, an athlete with a fascinating back-story. For some reason, a lot of people were searching for Zoltan Mesko t-shirts lately. I guess the cult status he had in Ann Arbor is spreading to the NFL, or Boston at least.
So I figured it was time to re-publish this exclusive from 2009 Big Ten Media Day.
When I first saw that Michigan brought their punter to Media Day, I thought “well, that makes sense he had a ton of work last season, and probably will again this fall. But seriously, who brings their punter?”
By Paul M. Banks
“If I have a bad day punting, I will try what’s called Suicide Watch, because the kickers we’ll go off on our own and kick away and the other players are like- ‘it’s suicide watch, just leave him alone, let him kick it out.’
I happen to do that a lot because I’m a perfectionist, if I don’t have a good day I’m not going to talk much,” Mesko told me.
Many football fans don’t take specialists as seriously as offensive or defensive players, or they just ignore them altogether. However, those people need to re-think their views as Mesko’s extraordinary example can attest.
“It’s a mental game. Two-a-days are tougher for us mentally than physically, because if we have a bad day, we can’t do anything about it until the next day. The guys that hit each other can’t wait to have practice over, we can’t wait till the next day to prove ourselves again,” the 2009 Playboy All-American and 2008 All-Big Ten pick said.
Mesko came a long way to The Big House. He was born in the town of Timisoara, in Communist Romania. His hometown produced Johnny Weismuller, the world’s best swimmer during the 1920s and the most famous actor to ever portray Tarzan.
Zoltan’s father, a former professional bowler, and later mechanical engineer (Zoltan’s mother is a civil engineer) won a random lottery to apply for a U.S. Green Card. Of the millions who apply for the chance to come here, only 50,000 get selected.
When Zoltan was 11, his family escaped the revolution that was tearing the country apart. The Meskos moved to a Cleveland suburb where Zoltan would one day become a fan of Michigan’s bitterest rival, THE Ohio State University.
“A Columbus guy was asking me about all the rivalries and I told him, I never even heard of the Michigan State rivalry until I got here. It’s all the way we’re raised, all the Michigan guys we have on our team hold that Michigan State rivalry really high, we kind of teach each other what each rivalry is all about.
I never knew about Notre Dame, until some guys from Indiana told me about it,” the Wolverines single season leader in total punts and punting yardage history said.
Of course, Ohio State is THE main rivalry. HBO didn’t make a special documentary about this rivalry for nothing.
“There’s a lot of history behind the rivalry, there was even a territorial dispute in the Toledo area,” Mesko stated.
The dispute he refers to is the Toledo War of 1835–1836 also known as the Ohio-Michigan War. It was a boundary dispute between the state of Ohio and then territory of Michigan. It ended with something called the “Frostbitten Convention.”
Hey, if there’s any place on Earth worth going to war over, it’s certainly Toledo.
Once his NFL punting career runs its course, Mesko’s UM degree with a triple concentration in marketing, strategy, and finance should suit him just fine.
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