Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft presented Mesko with the award, which is named in honor of the late Ron Burton, the first player drafted by the team and a community leader whose widespread charitable work was a model for how a Patriots player can make an impact off the field.
“Zoltan is one of the best punters in the league, but he may be the league’s current MVP for his contributions in the community,” said Kraft. “In the 18 years since we established the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, perhaps no player has accomplished more in the community in such a short amount of time.”
The Romanian-born Mesko, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Michigan, discovered his passion for charity work, particularly that which benefits children, shortly after his arrival in New England. He immediately became one of the team’s most active community participants. In two seasons as a Patriot, Mesko has participated in a community event nearly every Tuesday (the players’ only off day each week), and often participates in more than one per week. He is also known to seek out opportunities to get involved in the community when he is in the area during the offseason.
Last season, Mesko was one of the Patriots players who spearheaded the season-long “Celebrate Volunteerism” campaign, visiting Boys & Girls Clubs, hospitals, veterans homes, home makeover events and more to promote the benefits of volunteering. In October 2011, he joined several of his teammates in a one-day playground build for a Providence, R.I. community. Mesko also granted wishes for eleven youth from across the country who chose to meet Patriots players as part of the Make-A-Wish program. During the holidays, Mekso was determined to make the season special for as many children possible by participating in every Patriots holiday activity. He helped children from homeless shelter programs select gifts during Patriots Gifts from the Gridiron and played games with more than 250 children from Massachusetts and Rhode Island during the Patriots Community Holiday Party. During the offseason, Mesko took it upon himself to organize a karaoke fundraiser, called “Zolioke,” where more than a dozen of his teammates sang karaoke, participated in live and silent auctions and interacted with pediatric patients to benefit Children’s Hospital Boston.
Mesko joins a select group of Patriots players to receive the Ron Burton Award: Joe Andruzzi (2003), Troy Brown (2004), Matt Light (2005), Jarvis Green (2006), Ty Warren (2007), Larry Izzo (2008), Kevin Faulk (2009),