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Patriots Punter Interns At Private Equity Firm

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Patriots Punter Interns At Private Equity Firm

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Patriots Punter Interns At Private Equity Firm

Patriots Punter Interns At Private Equity Firm

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The NFL draft begins Thursday but unless the league and the players' union come to an agreement on a new contract, the 2011 season might not happen. Some players have backup plans. Zoltan Mesko, the punter for the New England Patriots, is learning about the private equities market.


Professional football player Zoltan Mesko is used to working in an environment like this...

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

MONTAGNE: But the punter for the New England Patriots is spending this off-season in a very different setting - an office cubicle.

Mr. ZOLTAN MESKO (New England Patriots): No. No. I know how to enter it, but -gotcha. Click out and it should be already in the database, right?

MONTAGNE: Mesko is using the current NFL labor dispute to get his foot in the door of a new career. Curt Nickish of member station WBUR caught up with Mesko at his entry-level internship.

CURT NICKISH: Zoltan Mesko's cubicle sits in a corporate office park in suburban Philadelphia. It's where the standout punter is having trouble with the printer.

Mr. MESKO: There's too many pages. I forgot to add a section to it. All right. Well, I'm lost.

NICKISH: The tall 25-year-old still works out and gets his practice punts in each day. He made over $500,000 last year with the New England Patriots. But now he's trying to learn a new marketable skill. Zoltan says the idea is to know what he's going to do when his pro football career ends.

Mr. MESKO: You know, a little step ahead of things, because football could end for me any day.

NICKISH: Zoltan's interning at the private equity firm Graham Partners. It uses money from big investors to buy manufacturers, improve their businesses and then sell them for more a few years later. One of the firm's principles, William Timmerman, says Zoltan is a good fit. He's a team player. He's got good communication skills and works hard. But Timmerman says Zoltan's still a private equity rookie.

Mr. WILLIAM TIMMERMAN (Graham Partners): From a technical standpoint, he's raw. Financial modeling, accounting, just the blocking and tackling of what an analyst does in corporate finance. He's like anyone else coming out of college. He just hasn't had the training, and that's what he's here for.

NICKISH: So Zoltan's putting in 12-hour days, studying leveraged buyout models and plugging sales figures into spreadsheets. It's a grind and it's tiring. He makes a tenth of what he earns as a pro athlete. But Zoltan says he wants to pay his dues like anyone else.

Mr. MESKO: Well, right now I'm not doing the most meaningful work, but you know, just like football, you've got to do the boring stuff to get to the exciting stuff.

NICKISH: In his casual business attire, you wouldn't even recognize Zoltan as an NFL player - typing away in the cubicle he shares with Ali Butler.

Ms. ALI BUTLER (Graham Partners): I think a lot of people at this office would've killed for this spot. And I was like, OK, I guess if I have to have somebody next to me, it might as well be this guy.

NICKISH: Ali is not into pro sports, unlike some of the firm's IT guys. In fact, she says Zoltan really played down his NFL experience.

Ms. BUTLER: Hour five of him being here, he was like just pull these up. Let me just show you a little something.

NICKISH: YouTube videos of himself doing a face plant or tripping as he ran out onto the football field. But here Ali and Zoltan play on the same field. While she works on PowerPoints for investors, he researches acquisition targets or sits in on manager conference calls.

Unidentified Man #1: Additional questions?

Unidentified Man #2: No, that's all I had. Thank you.

Unidentified Man #1: OK. Zoltan, anything?


Unidentified Man #1: OK.

NICKISH: Zoltan is looking forward to going back to his day job as an NFL punter, and so is Scott Glickman, a senior advisor at the firm. He's a Patriots season ticket holder and can't wait to see Zoltan play.

Mr. SCOTT GLICKMAN (Graham Partners): This is the guy who was at the cubicle, pounding away on the computer, who worked on my deals. It'll be nice to see him.

NICKISH: That depends, though, on the NFL and a labor deal. Until then, Zoltan Mesko is going to keep studying the private equity playbook.

For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickish.

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