Today is a great day to wish a BIG BLUE Happy Birthday to a Wolverine named Zoltan Mesko. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Zoltan Mesko was born on this date in Timisoara, Romania. He was twelve years old when his family immigrated to Ohio.
Zoltan played a lot of soccer before leaving his native Romania. Apparently, he was a pretty good player who could really kick the ball! Not only that, but he was very bright. Zoltan grew up to be an outstanding student and a very good high school punter. He attended a Michigan football camp in 2004 and impressed the coaches with his punting distance and his hang-time. They offered him a scholarship and so did thirteen other top schools. Fortunately, Lloyd Carr and Michigan had the best combination of academics and athletics and Zoltan committed to be a Wolverine.
(Note – Zoltan Mesko (#41) is pictured here with the 2009 Michigan Football Team. He is seated in the first row and is the seventh man from the left. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Zoltan Mesko showed up in Ann Arbor in 2005. Lloyd Carr decided that it would be best to burn a red-shirt so he put the talented Mesko on the shelf for his freshman season.
Zoltan’s sophomore year started off with a punting competition between him and Ross Ryan. After five games, Zoltan earned the starter’s job and did not relinquish it until he left Ann Arbor. Mesko became a very effective kicker for Lloyd Carr’s Wolverines. He was the fourth best punter in the Big Ten in 2006 and the fifth best in 2007. Zoltan also earned conference All-Academic honors in his first two years as Michigan’s full-time punter.
The hiring of Rich Rodriguez brought a lot of changes to Michigan Football and the punting game was no exception. Zoltan would now be rolling out to the left prior to punting. He also learned how to run the ball since the fake punt was an “option” in the Rodriguez version of the Spread Punting Offense. Zoltan also spent more time on the field as a holder for field goals and points after touchdown. Certainly, a lot of changes for Mesko, but he handled it all very well.
Unfortunately, Zoltan was on the field way, way too much during the Rodriguez Era. He set many records for punting because he had so many opportunities to kick the ball! When it worked, Michigan’s new “Spread Offense” was often a quick strike attack that led to big plays and quick scores. However, when it didn’t work, it was usually 1-2-3 Zoltan!
Other than punting a lot, one of the greatest things that happened for Zoltan was being named as one of the Michigan captains for the 2009 season. He was joined in his captaincy by Stevie Brown, Brandon Graham and Mark Ortman. This was significant because it marked the first time that a special teams performer/punter was ever voted as a Michigan Captain.
Zoltan Mesko finished his career as a two-time All-Big Ten punter (2008 and 2009). He also ran his streak of All-Academic honors to four straight years. He also earned second team and honorable mention from some All-American voting agencies. In addition to his outstanding achievements on the field and in the classroom, Zoltan also earned recognition for his community service work. He had an amazing college career, but probably didn’t get enough sleep!
The talented Zoltan Mesko was consistent and very effective for four consecutive seasons. He did his job at a very high level and kicked his way into the record books by the time he left Ann Arbor. He was part of two very good Michigan teams in 2006 and 2007 and two that were not very good in 2008 and 2009. He did everything he could to help Michigan win football games and that was all he could do.
Here are some firsts that connect Zoltan Mesko and Michigan Football:
· First Michigan football player to be born in Romania.
· Played on the first two teams coached by Rich Rodriguez in 2008 and 2009.
· Played on the first Michigan team to lose 9 games in one season in 2008.
· Played on the first Michigan to lose 7 Big Ten games in 2009.
· First Michigan punter to “start” 50 games from 2006-2009.
· First “punter” to be named as a co-captain of a Michigan football team in 2009.
· First, and only, man to punt 80 times in a single season in 2008.
· First, and only, man to record 3,436 punting yards in one season in 2008.
· First, and only, man to punt for over 10,000 yards in a career (10,703).
· First and only man with over 250 punts during a career (252).
· Zoltan was first in season average at 44.46 yards per punt in 2009 when he left Michigan, but that record was later broken by Will Hagerup (45.03) in 2012.
So, Zoltan Mesko continued the Michigan tradition of outstanding punters. His name is all over the record book and many of his accomplishments are still at the top of the list. Please take a moment to remember Zoltan’s contributions to the great history of Michigan football. I hope he has a great birthday celebration today! Happy Birthday Zoltan and Go Blue!
For more information about Zoltan Mesko, check out the links below.
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