Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko will co-host the Inaugural New England Kids Triathlon this weekend in Cambridge, trading in his spikes and Pats jersey for running sneakers and a bathing suit as he'll be swimming, biking and running with 500 kids.
Mesko was able to chat with NESN.com on Thursday afternoon about the event, and all things going on in Zoltan's wild world.
NESN.com: Could you tell us a bit about the NFL's Play 60 program and why you're so interested in participating in it?
Zoltan Mesko: It's a great program to get kids active as far as having it benefit them down the road. Setting up good habits to exercise and eat healthy, and basically it's an investment in themselves as far as health and quality of life. So if you can partner up with something like Play 60 who is backed by the NFL and New England Patriots, it's an amazing tool that you can use to benefit many, many kids.
NESN.com: It seems extra relevant today because there's a lot of talk about childhood obesity and social media sucking kids inside and keeping them from playing outside, it seems really relevant this day and age.
ZM: Yeah, exactly. I was always kicked out of the house by parents and pretty much forced to go play, so this is what we're trying to invite kids to do. Do burn off that sugar they put into their bodies these days.
NESN.com: This weekend in Cambridge is the triathlon event for the kids. What can you tell us about that?
ZM: It's a kick-start to hopefully a better lifestyle for many kids. A lot of them are active. We ended up going to YMCA camps where the kids are doing the right thing by joining these summer camps, but we also want to encourage kids who are not a part of these camps to come out and have a good time and watch us big kids embarrass ourselves as well. It's all in good fun and good nature as far as competition is concerned but it's a great event to kind of segue into getting active and eating healthy and doing everything you can to prolong your life as well as make it a more quality one.
NESN.com: Have you yourself ever competed in a triathlon, marathon, or any endurance race?
ZM: No, I have not, and I’m very glad that it's a short one so I can get the suffering over with very quickly.
NESN.com: If you could think of a Patriots teammate of yours, who would finish first and last in a triathlon?
ZM: I don't know if our bodies are conditioned for that endurance type of deal, we're more of short bursts and short explosiveness, that's what we train for. But I’m guessing one of the wide receivers who is pretty lean and mean could endure one of those. I'm not sure which YMCA we went to, but we had an Ironman contestant talk to us, it was a female, and having run a marathon in one day and then having biked 120 miles and then swam three-plus miles in one day, I can't even imagine the type of condition your body has to be in, to even finish such a race. Maybe it's something I'd like to try down the road when football is over.
There's actually a YouTube video of a 79-year-old woman completing that Ironman and she's coming in and people are cheering her on. It's pretty phenomenal.
NESN.com: It seems like these endurance races require you to be physically fit but also have a lot of mental strength to complete it.
ZM: It really comes down to a combination of it, of being physically fit and having the mental capacity to fight through the pain threshold. But it's definitely something you have to prepare yourself for early on as an athlete and that's what we're trying to promote here. Sports and athletics can be a great way to have fun while staying active. That's why we're doing it this way.
NESN.com: A lot of people stay in shape so they can look good on the beach. We recently saw a photo of you in Jamaica with some Patriots cheerleaders. Tell us about that.
ZM: Let me tell you the truth about that. I happen to be an excellent, excellent Photoshop artist and I happened to fool everyone but the cheerleaders that were there. If you look at the angle of the shadow from the sun it's pretty much flawless and I'm very proud of my Photoshop project.
NESN.com: Do you have a favorite vacation spot? Have you ever been to Jamaica?
ZM: I have never been, but apparently I have now! I like the beach but I also like hanging out. Anywhere where friends are where you can have a good time, it could be anywhere. So vacation spots, I just need some friends and we will have a good time.
NESN.com: You speak many languages, I'm sure that helps when you go on vacation you can talk to just about anybody.
ZM: Well I only know about four languages and there are about 200 you can learn, so I'm mostly talking with my hands, hand and legs trying to communicate with others. But everyone pretty much speaks English so people shouldn't be afraid of going out there.
NESN.com: So you were recently in New Hampshire for a NASCAR race, were you able to get behind the wheel at all?
ZM: No, but maybe one of these days I'll be able to do that just because it was such a cool experience meeting the drivers. A lot of the pit crew are very, very cool guys — all of them are ex-athletes, mostly football players, because you have to be of a bigger stature to throw those tires around and lift the fuel pump. But it's pretty cool how easy going everyone was and very nice, so I got to thank Toyota Racing for inviting us to attend.
NESN.com: Do you think that NASCAR fans and NFL fans are similar?
ZM: I was instantly hooked, just because of the team aspect of it. I love being a part of something that's bigger than myself and I love competition. As long as I can get that adrenaline rush, and I definitely felt some adrenaline going through my body as we were kind of cheering Joey Logano on and Kyle Bush, so it was pretty cool…maybe there's a future in it for me. Not necessarily driving because I'm too fat and I would weigh down the car too much.
NESN.com: Have you ever seen Talladega Night's with Ricky Bobby?
ZM: Yes, I had quoted the movie the entire day. It was pretty ridiculous. "If you ain't first, you're last." And there's so many more. We got to go on the track before the race started and I was doing the Ricky Bobby running around "I'm on fire! I'm on fire!" I'm a goofball at heart. That's what people need to know.
NESN.com: You met Guy Fieri earlier this summer, what are a few signature dishes you've been known to make?
ZM: Me? I'm terrible at cooking. My eggs are pretty good in the morning though. I can make some pretty good scrambled eggs. That's about it. But as far as cooking goes, I don't know. My family, my grandpa and great grandfather used to have a monopoly on the wedding cake industry back in Europe, back in Romania. But I never really showed an interest.
NESN.com: You don't bake?
ZM: Well I can follow instructions. It's all about experience. I'm sure I could learn [how to bake] but I would have to have some culinary chefs teach me a couple things. Maybe Guy Fieri can do that for me.
NESN.com: Do you have any restaurants in Boston that you think everybody has to try?
ZM: There are some pretty good ones, especially with the scenery. I love going to Del Frisco's Steak House, they've been very good, and they do a lot of work charity wise. They donate a lot of their services. It's pretty cool how much they do in their community. The people are great. I know some of the guys that work there. I like to go into the North End, maybe get some good Italian and then finish off with a good improv show at the Improv Asylum. I think everyone needs to do that experience.
NESN.com: If you could sum up the Summer of Gronk in one sentence, what would it be?
ZM: It's always the Year of Gronk, but now it's more known. He's such a good guy. He's so hard working, first off. And he definitely deserves the recent contract that he got, just because he's one of the best out there, and there's no surprise to me why he is because he's always out there working hard at his craft.
NESN.com: Is he the wackiest teammate you've had?
ZM: Not quite, there's been different categories. But he's definitely in the good genre of comedy when we go after it.
NESN.com: What other teammates have you had that are in that comedy genre?
ZM: We had Rich Ohrnberger on the team last season, who is an absolute comedian. He would hit it off as a standup right away. I don't know why he hasn't given it a shot yet but he needs to hit the scene hard because he would be successful.
NESN.com: How would you describe Tom Brady's fashion and his hairstyles?
ZM: I don't know, I guess he's a trendsetter, right? If the media is following him then he must be a trendsetter, because everyone else is following suit.
NESN.com: Training camp kicks off next week. What's the best part about NFL training camp?
ZM: Best thing about it is getting back into football. I just love the aspect of training hard in the offseason and then getting to put that, I mean you have to work hard during the season as well but it's kind of like, what have you done in the offseason to improve technique wise, strength wise, and all the aspects that go into becoming a successful player and ultimately benefiting the team to win.
NESN.com: Do you still get the butterflies when football season comes around?
ZM: Oh yeah. I think once I stop getting the butterflies it's over for me. But so far so good.
NESN.com: For your position, what's the toughest part about NFL training camp?
ZM: For my position, it would have to be staying fresh. Not that it's a very big challenge because I listen to my body and I take care of it. But I like doing what I do and taking care of my body, especially when it's in training camp getting beaten up by the longevity of the practices and the sun just draining you.