"I am honored and truly humbled to be named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year," said Birk. "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, who just finished his in 14th NFL season, has started 96 consecutive games, the NFL's second-longest active streak among centers. This past season, he blocked for Ravens running back Ray Rice, who scored a franchise-record 15 total touchdowns and rushed for a career-high 1,364 yards. Rice also led the league with 2,068 yards from scrimmage.
A Harvard graduate, Birk's "Ready, Set, Read!" program as part of his H.I.K.E. Foundation (hope, inspiration, knowledge and education), has reached close to 100,000 children in the Baltimore area. The goal is to motivate students to read at home though an incentive-based system.