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WSJ tabs Mesko as “NFL’s Most Interesting Man”

08.18.10 at 9:50 am ET

The Wall Street Journal has a story today about Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko, referring to the 24-year-old Romanian as “The NFL’s Most Interesting Man.”

“When I was 10 years old, I barely knew American football existed,” he told the Journal. “If you would’ve told me I’d get two degrees and a pro contract for kicking a ball in the air, I probably would have said, ‘Oh yeah? Are you going to disappear into thin air for your next act?”

John U. Bacon’s story details just how unlikely a journey Mesko has made to the NFL. Born and raised in Timisoara, Romania, Mesko grew up in the middle of a revolution in his country. Mesko spent Christmas Eve of 1989 on the floor of his parents apartment, ducking cross-fire. Eight years later his parents — both engineers — won the Green Card Lottery to America. Mesko was 10 years old.

After a short stint in Queens, the family moved Twinsburg, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb. It was there, in high school, that he discovered punting. At first he simply did not believe that it was possible to go to college — for free, no less — just because you could kick a football. But after flirting with Ivy League schools ( “We can’t guarantee you the NFL, but we can guarantee you Wall Street,” a Columbia coach told Mesko) he settled on Michigan, where he started four seasons and was named an Academic All-American (Mesko speaks five languages). He also graduated with two degrees and “no debt,” as he told he Journal.

A weak Senior Bowl performance was a concern, but a strong combine effort cemented his status as the top punting prospect in the 2010 draft. And on April 24 (the third day of the 2010 draft) Mesko’s phone rang. The “Unknown Caller” on the other end was Bill Belichick, welcoming Mesko to New England.

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