New England Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko was a big hit as the guest speaker at the Danvers Touchdown Club earlier this week.
Mesko, who was born in Romania and went to the University of Michigan before being drafted by the Patriots in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, spoke to a large gathering at the Village Green in Danvers and told a funny story about how he got into football.
He told the assembled crowd that, after coming to the United States at age 11, he was in middle school in Ohio and taking part in an indoor kickball game when he booted the ball and broke one of the large lights on the ceiling. That got the attention of the school's football coach, who told him either come out for the team as their kicker — or pay for the light.
"His career was jump started from that accident," said NFL player agent Sean Stellato of Peabody, who handles marketing for Mesko.
"He's a very intelligent kid who speaks four different languages. He talked about growing up in Romania and having to sleep on the floor because bullets were always flying around. He got to America by winning a lottery; the odds of that happening were as great as hitting the lottery here."
Mesko also talked about the 32-yard missed field goal by Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff in last Sunday's AFC Championship Game in Foxboro, allowing the Patriots to win and advance to next Sunday's Super Bowl in Indianapolis against the New York Giants.
After the game, Mesko was one of the first to offer support to Cundiff, who is a close friend.
"Zoltan has a nice relationship with Cundiff because he used to attend his kicking camps," said Stellato, who is thrilled to be going to his first Super Bowl, thanks to client Gary Guyton, the Patriots' linebacker who got him a ticket.
Mesko answered questions from fans about punting and how to place the ball and signed autographs.
"Punters are usually the forgotten member of the team, but they play such an important role," said Stellato. "'Z' calls himself the fourth-down quarterback because he holds for field goals and punts, so when it's fourth down he's called upon."
A former Salem High and Marist College standout quarterback, Stellato said Mesko is very exciting about playing in Super Bowl XLVI, but he refers to it as another business trip.
Stellato is heading out to Indianapolis Thursday morning and will take part in a cooking segment on Fox with Patriot defensive back Kyle Arrington's mother Sandra. She loves to cook and while the cameras roll, she'll prepare her signature macaroni and cheese dish or chili that she used to serve her son before his football games.