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Gunfire to gridiron: Zoltan Mesko's Super Bowl story

By Tom McGowan, CNN
February 3, 2012 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
New England Patriots punter Zoltan was born in communist-era Romania. He moved to the U.S. at the age of 11, and could get his hands on the Vince Lombardi trophy after Sunday's Super Bowl clash. New England Patriots punter Zoltan was born in communist-era Romania. He moved to the U.S. at the age of 11, and could get his hands on the Vince Lombardi trophy after Sunday's Super Bowl clash.
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A remarkable journey
Rose Bowl defeat
The stage is set
Passionate Patriots
Standing on the shoulders of Giants
Stars of the future
Super Bowl fever
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Zoltan Mesko is the Romania-born punter for the New England Patriots
  • He was born under the communist regime of former head of state Nicolae Ceausescu
  • The 25-year-old moved to the U.S. at the age of 11, unable to speak English
  • Mesko says he and his family are "proud Americans now"

(CNN) -- "I knew America would be like the movies I'd seen," says Zoltan Mesko. Born in Romania, and the survivor of a bloody revolution, the New England Patriots star's story could have a Hollywood ending at Sunday's Super Bowl.

It has been a long road to Indianapolis for the Patriots and the New York Giants, but no other player lining up at the Lucas Oil Stadium has been on a journey quite like Mesko's.

Born in Timisoara, a city with a population of just over 300,000, his early life was spent under the communist rule of Nicolae Ceausescu -- the former head of state who was overthrown and executed following the uprising of December 1989.

"I grew up in communism until I was three and a half years old, lived through a revolution, while bullets were flying through our apartment on Christmas Eve," Mesko, now 25, told reporters in Indianapolis, which is hosting the NFL's showpiece for the first time.

Though Ceausescu's 22-year reign finally ended, the East European nation's problems were far from over.

Bullets were flying through our apartment on Christmas Eve
Zoltan Mesko

"Hyperinflation set in so we couldn't buy anything with our money even though my parents were engineers," Mesko explained. "They were earning the equivalent of $100 a month, each."

In a bid to solve their financial problems, Mesko's father secretly hatched a plot to relocate his family to the United States.

"My dad, kind of behind our backs, applied for a green card lottery in late 1996," he said. "We got the answer that we were one of 55,000 families in the world to be chosen to come over to America."

Mesko arrived in New York City as a foreigner and unable to speak the language, but said he had no trouble adapting.

"Being 11 years old, you're a sponge -- within the summer I had picked up the language," he said.

"Was I picked on? No, I think I was accepted very well. Not even because I was in New York City, but because America accepts a lot of people."

After a decade in the U.S. Mesko is now fully schooled in American culture. He played college football in Michigan, going to the Rose Bowl five years ago, and has been in the NFL since 2010.

"We're proud Americans now," Mesko said of his family. "We celebrate every tradition there is."

His family will take part in the one of the great American pastimes when they sit down to watching Sunday's big game, a repeat of the 2007 championship which the Giants won 17-14.

The Meskos will be hoping that the 46th Super Bowl ends with their child of the revolution getting his hands on the Vince Lombardi trophy.

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