New England Patriots’ punter Zoltan Mesko is undoubtedly upset that his team didn’t make  it to the Super Bowl again this year, but it’s hardly the toughest ordeal of his life. As Romanian refugees, Mesko’s family endured Communist oppression, deprivation and violent revolution. Mesko, who holds an M.A. from the University of Michigan, shared his family’s experience and how faith plays a role in his life in an interview with the National Catholic Register.

Courtesy of the New England Patriots/David Silverman

Courtesy of the New England Patriots/David Silverman

When asked if he found it difficult to adapt to American culture, Mesko responded:

Not really. Romania was a very harsh place to live while the communists were in power. They portray it as equality for all, but the equality you get is everyone being equally miserable. Government control of everything results in less prosperity for everyone…My mother and father are both engineers, so we had quite a bit of money. However, because of hyperinflation, the money couldn’t buy much. We lived paycheck to paycheck in Romania, so the transition to American culture wasn’t too tough. I found things to be so much easier here.


Mesko has sought a way to help critically ill children, setting up the Zoltan Mesko Foundation. He considers this an extension of his deep religious faith.

My patron is St. Anthony of Padua. I wear a medal with his image, and I also have a picture of him on the wall. He’s holding the Christ Child, so his prayers are sought for things regarding small children. This reminds me of how in Romania everything was so expensive that people tended to have very few children. You just couldn’t afford to do otherwise. I’m an only child, but when I start a family of my own, I want to have many children. They are God’s greatest gift in the natural order, so it would be ridiculous to refuse such gifts when they can be accepted so easily.

I have so much to be grateful for, and I’ve beaten the odds in so many ways: surviving the bullets going through our apartment on Christmas Eve in 1989, winning the immigration lottery, getting a college football scholarship, making it to the Super Bowl (last year), physical health, spiritual health.

Some of these things I’ve worked for, but others have been free gifts given by God. When you consider the probability of me getting to where I am, it really is staggering. There’s no doubt in my mind that God exists and that he does have specific plans for me.

Read “The Amazing Adventures of a Romanian-Born New England Patriot” at the National Catholic Register.