Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk was voted by the Ravens as the team’s 2011 Water Payton Man of the Year recipient.
The Walter Payton Man of the Year is a unique award. The award recognizes a current NFL player for exceptional community service activities and on-field excellence. A nominee is selected from each of the 32 NFL teams, and a board of judges, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Connie Payton, widow of the late Walter Payton, elect the eventual national winner.
Birk was named Man of the Year seven times with the Minnesota Vikings, and he was named one of three finalists for the 2008 NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Birk, 35, has been extremely active in the Baltimore community since joining the Ravens prior to the 2009 season.
After starting the the Matt Birk H.I.K.E. Foundation in 2002, when he was with the Minnesota Vikings, the Harvard graduate started the “Ready, Set, Read!” program in several Baltimore-area public schools to motivate and encourage more than 50,000 students to read at home through a system of incentives.
In the fall of 2010, Birk teamed with Scholastic to develop “Read and Rise,” which is the H.I.K.E. Foundation’s proposal to connect schools, families and communities together in an attempt to aid the improvement of children’s literacy. This past fall, Birk extended the program to Carroll County in an effort to reach 50,000 additional children.
As the local Walter Payton Man of the Year honoree, Birk will receive $1,000 towards his H.I.K.E. Foundation. Later this month, an announcement will be made for the top three finalists, who will all receive an additional $5,000– and the eventual national winner– who will receive $25,000 towards his charity.