Israeli soccer-turned-football star Mesika headed to US tryout

The 27-year-old from Herzliya has impressed New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and several football coaches with his outstanding abilities as a kicker.

By JERUSALEM POST SPORTS STAFF
February 18, 2016 05:58
2 minute read.
GAL MESIKA

GAL MESIKA speaks with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (right) during the NFL bigwig’s trip to the Israel last summer. (photo credit: NERIA GEREVITCH)

Professional Israeli soccer player Gal Mesika – who also has become a rising football star in the Holy Land – will travel to Arizona next month, when he will become the first Israeli to get a tryout attended by professional American football scouts.

The 27-year-old from Herzliya has impressed New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and several football coaches with his outstanding abilities as a kicker.

Mesika is relatively new to American football, but not to professional sport. For the past decade, he was a goalkeeper in the top tiers of Israeli soccer and was a member of the under-19 and under-21 Israel national teams.

“To me, the mentality of a kicker in football and a ’keeper in soccer are very similar,” explained Mesika to The Jerusalem Post. “In both positions, you have plenty of alone time to practice your craft, but when an opportunity arises, the pressure is all on you to come through, often with the game on the line.”

Last year, Mesika joined the Israeli national team in American tackle football and was the team’s kicker and punter in the blue-and-white’s inaugural game, a 28-20 victory over Spain last summer in Madrid.

This past summer, Mesika had the opportunity to kick in front of Mr. Kraft, when the latter was in Israel hosting a group of 19 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The national team played an exhibition contest for the group, and at halftime, Mesika showed his skills by easily making several 40- and 50-yard field goal attempts. Turning toward Mesika, Kraft told the gathering that he hopes to soon see an Israeli playing in the NFL.

The kicker got a breakthrough when his demo tape led to an invitation to train with one of the leading kicking coaches in the US, Gary Zauner. Zauner’s work with Mesika led to significant improvement in distance and accuracy, leading to Mesika being invited the 2016 Free Agent Specialists combine in Arizona, which begins on March 14.

The combine is designed for unsigned kickers, punters and long-snappers who want to gain exposure to pro teams. Players must qualify to participate in the combine and only the best are invited.

“My dream is to play in the NFL and to wear the Israeli flag on my helmet,” explained Mesika. “Perhaps one day I will kick the winning field goal in the Super Bowl and the whole world will see that I represent Israel. It even makes me emotional just to think about it.”


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