Patriots draft pick Zoltan Mesko speaks to the New England Media via conference call on Saturday, April 24, 2010
Q: What do you think about being taken by the Patriots?
ZM: Wow, I get to be a Patriot. My favorite team, I've been watching Tom Brady ever since I committed to Michigan, so it is an honor and I am so, so proud to represent the organization.
Q: You had some contact with the Patriots at the Combine. Did you get a chance to sit down and talk to them? What kind of ideas did you form about the organization when you got the chance to talk to Coach Belichick?
ZM: Well, I actually talked to Coach Belichick for the first time today on the phone. I had talked to Coach [Scott] O'Brien. The whole organization's philosophy… you can tell why the Patriots have been so successful in the past and in the future coming up. It's just the intangibles they bring to the table, it's unbelievable.
Q: Punters aren't usually drafted so often. Did you have expectations of getting drafted? Or what were your thoughts on the draft?
ZM: The more the draft went by and I saw the names getting called up, I started getting more and more realistic about things. I thought I might have to go through the free agency process. Somehow the Patriots were really wanting to draft me and it's just unbelievable that they did. My heart's still racing. I'm still on cloud nine.
Q: Punters and placekickers tend to be by themselves on a football team and I found it interesting that you were named a team captain. How did the dynamics of that work for you?
ZM: Well, I was more of a hard worker — a leader by action. I wasn't the rah-rah guy who'd make the halftime speech or the pregame speech. Whenever somebody needed my guidance or help, I was there for them one-on-one. I tried to get around the team and see if anybody needed help whatsoever. I'm that kind of a leader. You just have to be yourself. You can't force anything, halftime speeches if you're not good at it, or you're not in that position to make it. I try to make the best of my situation. But for some reason, my teammates thought that I was fit for the job. I was very … It was probably the biggest honor I've received yet, just to be accepted by your peers.
Q: I read somewhere that you speak four languages; which languages are those?
ZM: I speak Romanian, Hungarian, German and English.
Q: The Patriots have a German (Sebastian Vollmer) on the team.
ZM: We do. I can say that, "we do," now. I'm looking forward to meeting [Sebastian Vollmer].
Q: You'll probably be the only person to be able to speak with him in his native language.
ZM: Yeah, maybe we can kind of make a playbook around German because we're the only ones who understand it. Even though other teams may be wondering what we're talking about, they won't know.
Q: A lot of teams' punters are sort of anonymous. You've developed quite a following just looking around the Internet. All the different nicknames you've had, I think 'The Space Emperor' is the one that keeps sticking out. What was your experience like in college. You had to be one of the more recognizable punters around, right?
ZM: I would say so. It's kind of weird for me to be known, as a punter. Yeah, I have a weird name that's easily recognizable or recallable, but I'm trying to be myself, doing my thing. The fans just kind of took to it. It wasn't my doing in any way, shape or form. I was being myself. It kind of just happened on its own. I'm very thankful it happened because I'm receptive of all things that come my way.
Q: Do you have a favorite nickname?
ZM: I like to stay humble about it, but 'The Emperor of Space' is too funny to pass up. It's just like, 'Where do people come up with that stuff?'
Q: How do you feel about your directional punting skills?
ZM: I would say that I've been improving. In my junior and senior years, all we did was punt to the college numbers and outside — from the college numbers to the sideline— and the college numbers are actually farther out toward the sidelines than professional numbers. So it's been getting better and better. I'm not a perfectionist at it, but I know that I can never become complacent and never become good enough. So I just want to keep improving day by day.
Q: Do you know that you already have a fun club here?
ZM: No, I did not.
Q: I just wanted to ask you about your leadership and what that meant to you being a leader at Michigan, being a punter.
ZM: In the first year, I mean, I'm going to keep quiet [and] to myself. I'm sure I'll be able to develop some relationships with the players if they need anything, I'll be out there helping. But as a punter and a first-year player — a rookie — I'm going to have to lead through my actions in how much time I spend at the building and how much work I put in. So that's basically my first-year goal of being with the Patriots organization.
Q: I know you've played other sports. How does that translate into either being a punter or when you're covering on special teams and whether you engage in tackling or not?
ZM: I'm a fairly big guy. I think I've done two tackling drills in college, in practice. All I know is that I need to get my body in front of the guy and my teammates will be there to help me out. As far as tackling goes and athleticism, I've played a lot of basketball growing up. Actually, I hate tooting my own horn, but I'm fairly good at getting high snaps because — I guess — of my leaping ability. In eighth grade, I actually dunked my first basketball in a game. I was quite surprised. I played soccer, I ran track, so I'm not just a kicker. I like throwing the ball around, maybe we can mix it up in there … We'll see.
Q: Speaking of getting high snaps, what is your background in terms of holding?
ZM: I held at Michigan for three seasons when our backup punter left. I really agree with the punter being the holder. I heard Coach Belichick does the same thing. The punter and the kicker tend to hang out the most. We have to have a rhythm with each other … once you get that, that's really what you're looking for in the field goal game — to be on the same page all the time.
Q: So will Stephen Gostkowski be the first person you seek out when you get here?
ZM: Yeah, if I run into Stephen, I'll be glad to introduce myself. If I run into Tom Brady, I might be a little star-struck to say hello to him because he's a Michigan guy. But I'm sure I'll get over that. I'd love to get to know Tom Brady. He's a special person.
Q: Have you met him before?
ZM: No, I have not. I missed him when he was up on campus the past few times.
Q: I don't know if you know this and it might change but the punter's locker is right next to Brady's, at least it was last year.
ZM: Oh, wow. Well, that's the crazy part—transitioning from being … Tom Brady, from a fan's perspective, is my favorite player in the whole NFL, just because he has that Michigan tie and he's done such a great job overcoming being drafted in the sixth round. It's crazy how much he's done and how many people he's proved wrong. That's my philosophy in life, I get motivated more about the negative things that are said about me. I like to prove myself that way. I'd love to model myself after Tom Brady, so maybe getting to know him a little more will help that mindset.
Q: Do you think you might bust him on the fact that you were actually drafted a round higher?
ZM: I was just thinking that, but I didn't want to mention it. No, no. I won't. It's not about how you start, it's how you finish.