OWINGS MILLS — Baltimore Ravens six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk picked up some hardware Saturday night, winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.
Birk, 35, was recognized by the NFL for his involvement in the community and his play on the field.
Before the kickoff of Super Bowl XLVI tonight, Birk will be presented with the award by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the late Payton’s children, Jarrett and Brittney Payton.
"I am honored and truly humbled to be named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year," Birk said. "This award is not about the recipient, but rather a celebration of the decades-long tradition of NFL players using their unique platform to touch lives and make a positive and lasting impact in the communities in which they work and live. Walter Payton left a legacy that went beyond the playing field. He continues to be an inspiration and example of what a complete NFL player should aspire to become.
"I am grateful to have played for two organizations, the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens, which encourage and support their players’ community efforts. I have always considered it a privilege to play in the NFL and serve the communities that support our game."
Birk is contemplating retirement and expected to make a decision prior to free agency, which begins March 13.
In 14 NFL seasons, Birk has dealt with neck, hip, knee and leg injuries.
However, he has started 96 consecutive games.
Last season, Birk blocked for Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice as he rushed for a career-high 1,364 yards and 12 touchdowns and set a franchise record with 15 total touchdowns and led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage.
A father of six, the Harvard grdauate established a "Ready, Set, Read!" initiative through his H.I.K.E. foundation to promote literacy.
It reaches nearly 100,000 children in the Baltimore region, including Carroll County students.
Birk has agreed to donate his brain and spinal cord tissue to the Center for Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University’s School of Medicine to assist in researching the effects of repeated head traumas.
An eight-time local Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, including winning it seven times when he played for the Minnesota Vikings, Birk was a finalist for the national award in 2008.
Birk receives a $20,000 donation in his name toward the charity of his choice. And he’ll be presented with the Gladiator statue, an original art creation by sculptor Daniel Schwartz.