Zoltan Mesko grew up a Steelers fan in Cleveland

Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

The purchase of a Steelers jacket from a Cleveland-area Wal Mart as a kid was a reflection of the city of Pittsburgh to Steelers punter Zoltan Mesko.

Steelers punter Zoltan Mesko was a Steelers fan in enemy territory.

While his experiences as a young boy in Cleveland sporting a Steelers jacket he bought at an area Wal-Mart likely made him a target for criticism, it was nothing compared to the kind of struggles he and his family endured in the Nicolae Ceausescu-controlled country of Romania.

Ceausescu, charged with genocide and sentenced to death by firing squad, was overthrown in the Romanian Revolution of 1989.

Seven years later, writes Tribune Review reporter Alan Robinson, Mesko's family won a lottery for green cards, sending them to the United States.

The Meskos lived in Queens, N.Y., followed by a move to Cleveland where friends of theirs had once lived. They remained in Ohio, where Mesko eventually earned a spot on the University of Michigan's football team as a punter. In 2010, the Patriots selected him in the fifth round of the NFL draft.

The Steelers had traded up in the 2007 NFL Draft for a punter - Baylor's Dan Sepulveda. Multiple knee injuries ended Sepulveda's career, and financial reasons were likely behind Mesko's release from the Patriots this offseason.

It worked out well for Mesko, at least in the sense he's no longer wearing the Steelers jacket of his youth. He's got a jersey on the team from the city he grew up feeling - as Robinson wrote - "Pittsburgh was what an American city should look like."

He told Robinson:

"It's more what we imagined in life."

It all came full-circle for Mesko - sort of ironic, considering the Steelers have lacked that completeness at the punter position for several years now. They've had a different opening day punter from the previous season in each of the last six years, from Sepulveda to Mitch Berger to Paul Ernster to Jeremy Kapinos to Drew Butler - the punter who beat out Brian Moorman over the preseason, only to be cut the next day for Mesko.

Considering where he came from, though, the fact he ended up with the Steelers is rather remarkable.

And like many fans, he rooted for the enemy of the city in which he resided. His perception of the enemy just may be a bit different than most people.

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