By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
FOXBORO Zoltan Mesko is a man of many talents. He speaks five different languages. He has not one, but two college degrees. But the NFL is a completely different subject, one that he's picking up quite nicely.
The 6-foot-5 punter had a solid rookie year with the New England Patriots last season. A year older and wiser, Mesko has shown signs of being even better.
The only major difference now, Mesko says, is he knows what to expect.
"The workload is the same," he said. "The pressure for success never decreases. It's definitely a better experience the second time around just knowing what challenges are ahead of us, ahead of me. That's basically it -- knowing what to expect."
With the Patriots having an offense with even more weapons than last season -- or in 2007 when Brady and company set a number of offensive benchmarks -- opportunities for Mesko to get on the field are likely to be down from a year ago.
You would think that the pressure to perform would be even greater when called upon this season. But Mesko doesn't see it that way.
"You just imagine the consequences of a bad performance," he said. "That keeps you on edge."
Poor play has not been an issue with Mesko thus far in the preseason.
In New England's 31-14 win at Tampa Bay, Mesko averaged 41.4 yards on five punts, one of which was a booming 57-yarder.
With Saturday's game at Detroit's enclosed Ford Field, Mesko doesn't have to worry about the elements being a factor in his kicking game.
"That's the thing you can't rely on," Mesko said of playing indoors. "Sometimes your concentration level goes down as far as, 'everything is perfect so I can relax now.' You still have to be on edge, have that same concentration level as before."
Mesko, who was born and raised in Timisoara, Romania, until he was 10 -- that was when his parents hit the green card lottery which allowed them to come to the United States -- is still relatively new to the business side of the NFL.
But he's wise enough to know that punters and kickers, maybe more than any other positions, are dispensable if you don't produce when the opportunity presents itself.
"The motivation has to be internal as far as that goes," he said. "I'm a competitive person. I don't like to lose, even in a spitting game. It's just me wanting to do the best for the team and myself."
So far, so good.
"It's been definitely an organization where you see the fruits of your labor," said Mesko, who has an undergraduate business degree and a master's degree in sports management -- both from Michigan. "You reap those once you put in the work. There's definitely a good sense of accountability at this organization that makes you, kind of forces you to be successful because of the work that's required of you."