Matt Birk
refer to caption
Birk with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012
No. 75, 78, 77
Position:Center
Personal information
Born: (1976-07-23) July 23, 1976 (age 46)
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Height:6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight:310 lb (141 kg)
Career information
High school:Cretin-Derham Hall
(Saint Paul, Minnesota)
College:Harvard
NFL Draft:1998 / Round: 6 / Pick: 173
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:210
Games started:187
Fumble recoveries:5
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

Matthew Robert Birk (born July 23, 1976) is a former American football center who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 14 seasons. He spent most of his professional career playing for the Minnesota Vikings.[1][2] He was the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota running alongside Scott Jensen in the 2022 Minnesota gubernatorial election.

Born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Birk played college football at Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics and entered the 1998 NFL Draft. He was drafted towards the end of the draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He spent his first two seasons with the Vikings as a backup offensive lineman. He became the starting center in 2000 and went on to be selected to six Pro Bowls and two All-Pro second-teams during his career with the Vikings. As a free agent following the 2008 season, Birk left the Vikings and joined the Baltimore Ravens. After the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, Birk retired from the NFL. In 2011 he was awarded the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

Following his retirement in 2012, Birk returned to Minnesota. He started a Catholic school in Burnsville, Minnesota in 2019.[3] Active in anti-abortion causes and local Republican politics, Birk joined Jensen's gubernatorial candidacy in March 2022.[4] Jensen and Birk faced incumbents Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan in the general election and lost the race.

Early career

Birk attended Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was a letterman and standout in football, basketball, and track and field.[5] He was an All-St. Paul Conference honoree, an Academic All-State honoree, and an All-State honoree in both football and basketball. Birk graduated from Cretin-Derham in 1994.

Birk attended Harvard University to play college football for the Harvard Crimson. He attained All-Ivy League, All-New England and Division I-AA All-Eastern College Athletic Conference first-team football honors. Birk graduated from Harvard University in 1998 with a degree in economics.[6]

Professional football career

1998 NFL Draft

Ranked as the No. 16 offensive tackle available,[7] Birk was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the sixth round with the 173rd overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft.[8] He was described by Sports Illustrated as "maybe the best Ivy League prospect to come along in several years", who "could be a nice developmental type pick".[9]

Minnesota Vikings

Birk with the Minnesota Vikings in 2002
Birk with the Minnesota Vikings in 2002

During his first two seasons with the Vikings, he appeared in 22 games as a backup offensive lineman. In 2000, he took over the starting center position for the Vikings, starting all 16 games and was named to his first Pro Bowl team.[10][11] Birk started every game for the Vikings at center from 2000 to 2003.[12][13][14]

In 2004, Birk missed the last four games of the season due to surgery to treat a sports hernia.[15] He missed the entire 2005 season with a hip injury that required surgery.[16]

Birk returned to form in 2006, anchoring the Vikings offensive line from the center spot and earning his fifth career Pro Bowl selection.[17] In 2007, Birk was named Minnesota Vikings Man of the Year for the sixth year in a row.[18] He also earned his sixth Pro Bowl selection, tying Mick Tingelhoff for most Pro Bowl appearances by a Vikings center.[19][20]

In 2010 Minnesota Vikings season, the 50th anniversary of the Minnesota Vikings, he was ranked by the team as one of their 50 greatest players.[1]

He returned to the Vikings’ home stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, for the team's final game in the stadium before its demolition for the construction of U.S. Bank Stadium. The team named him honorary captain for the finale game.[21]

In rankings since his career with the Vikings, he has been ranked as one of the team's greatest players.[2]

Baltimore Ravens

An unrestricted free agent in the 2009 offseason, Birk signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens on March 4. The deal included $6 million guaranteed.[22]

In March 2012, Birk signed a new three-year deal with the Ravens. He won his first career championship during Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers.[23] Birk announced his retirement on February 22, 2013.[24][25]

He finished his career with the Ravens with two fumble recoveries and no fumbles.

Post-NFL career

Birk was briefly the NFL director of football development.[26] In 2019, he co-founded (with Tom Bengtson) a private Catholic high school, Unity Catholic High School, in Burnsville, Minnesota.[27] He has also been involved in politics in the Minnesota Republican Party.[28]

Birk, who has had three concussions since high school, announced in February 2013 his intentions to donate his brain to the Boston University School of Medicine for research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy.[29][30]

Political involvement

Anti-abortion and anti-same-sex-marriage activism

In 2012, Birk spoke out against same-sex marriage, filming a video in opposition to a new Maryland law legalizing same-sex marriage. The law was the subject of a Maryland ballot referendum (Question 6); voters upheld the law.[31] Also in 2012, Birk wrote an op-ed, published in the Star Tribune, calling for passage of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment that would amend that state's constitution to prohibit gay marriage. Birk suggested that legal recognition of same-sex unions would harm "the broader well-being of children and the welfare of society."[32] The same-sex marriage ban proposal was defeated in the fall election and same-sex marriage was legalized in Minnesota in 2013.

After the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, Birk chose not to attend the celebratory meeting with President Barack Obama, citing Obama's recent comments in support of Planned Parenthood as contrasting Birk's Catholic and anti-abortion views.[33] In January 2018, Birk spoke at the 45th annual March for Life.[34]

2022 candidacy for lieutenant governor

In March 2022, Republican Scott Jensen announced Birk as his running mate in his gubernatorial campaign, challenging Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. In addition to being known as an outspoken conservative who opposes same-sex marriage, Birk also expressed skepticism of the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[35] The party endorsed the ticket in May 2022, with Birk's selection appealing to Republican base voters.[36] Scott and Birk generally trailed in surveys of Minnesota voters.[37] Walz and Flanagan released copies of their tax returns ahead of the election, while Jensen and Birk declined to do so.[38][39][40]

Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark ruling of Roe v. Wade, Birk spoke at a June 2022 National Right To Life convention in Georgia where he compared legalized abortion to slavery, saying that proponents treat unborn children as the "property of the mother".[41] Birk said in the same speech that American culture "loudly but also stealthily promotes" abortion by prioritizing women's careers over motherhood. He also criticized the termination of pregnancies resulting from rape, saying that abortion would not heal those wounds. His comments were criticized by opponent Peggy Flanagan (who said that Birk "does not trust or respect women") as well as others.[42][43]

As a candidate, Birk had a "flashy and combative" style, which caused consternation among some fellow Minnesota Republicans.[37] Birk personally attacked Minnesota Republican activist Michael Brodkorb (a critic of Birk) on Twitter, after Brodkorb highlighted a KSTP/SurveyUSA poll showing Walz ahead of Jensen by 18 percentage points.[44] Birk played an atypically large role on the ticket, maintained his own campaign website, campaign material, and yard signs separate from Jensen's.[37] Less than eight weeks before Election Day, Birk traveled to deliver a speech to an insurance industry networking conference outside Baltimore, Maryland.[37]

Personal life

He was named the sixth-smartest athlete in 2010 by the Sporting News.[45] Birk scored a 46 on the Wonderlic Test, the seventh-highest score in NFL history.[46]

Birk is an anti-abortion activist. His wife volunteers at a crisis pregnancy center and he participated in the Maryland March for Life in 2011.[47] He is Catholic. Birk and his wife have eight children.[48]

Charity work

Birk established the HIKE Foundation in 2002, an educational nonprofit targeting at-risk Twin Cities' youth.[49] Birk received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2011 for his commitment to improving literacy among at-risk youth.[50][51][52]

References

  1. ^ a b "The Official Site of the Minnesota Vikings". www.vikings.com. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "The 30 greatest Minnesota Vikings players of all-time". The Viking Age. June 19, 2018. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  3. ^ "Former Viking star Matt Birk has started a school focused on learning over athletics". Twin Cities. October 23, 2020. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  4. ^ Hauser, Tom (March 4, 2022). "Super Bowl Champ to be Jensen's running mate for MN governor". KSTP. Retrieved March 7, 2022.
  5. ^ "Matt Birk doles out Golden Football to Alma Mater". Vikings.com. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  6. ^ Van Valkenburg, Kevin (August 27, 2009), "Veteran Birk leads Ravens' young O-line", The Baltimore Sun[permanent dead link].
  7. ^ http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/nfl/events/1998/nfldraft/topplayers/byposition/OT.html[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "1998 NFL Draft Listing". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  9. ^ "War Room Value Board - Matt Birk". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on March 13, 2010.
  10. ^ "2000 Minnesota Vikings Starters, Roster, & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  11. ^ "Matt Birk '98 Named to NFL Pro Bowl". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  12. ^ "2001 Minnesota Vikings Starters, Roster & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  13. ^ "2002 Minnesota Vikings Starters, Roster, & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  14. ^ "2003 Minnesota Vikings Starters, Roster, & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  15. ^ "Vikings' Birk willing to play through pain, but at a price". ESPN.com. August 24, 2005. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  16. ^ "Vikings to place Matt Birk on injured reserve". ESPN.com. August 30, 2005. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  17. ^ "2006 NFL Pro Bowlers". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  18. ^ "NFL: Former Viking's mission to help people out". Brainerd Dispatch. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  19. ^ "2007 NFL Pro Bowlers". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  20. ^ "Matt Birk went from sixth-rounder to hometown success story for Vikings". ESPN.com. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  21. ^ "Vikings: Matt Birk 'blown away' by being named honorary captain for Metrodome finale". Twin Cities. December 28, 2013. Retrieved July 22, 2022.
  22. ^ Duffy, Mike (March 4, 2009), "Birk Shores Up Ravens at Center", BaltimoreRavens.com, archived from the original on February 14, 2012, retrieved March 4, 2009.
  23. ^ "Super Bowl XLVII - San Francisco 49ers vs. Baltimore Ravens - February 3rd, 2013". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  24. ^ "Ravens center Matt Birk retires after 15 seasons in NFL". Baltimore Sun. February 22, 2013.
  25. ^ Hanzus, Dan (February 22, 2013). "Baltimore Ravens' Matt Birk announces retirement". National Football League. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  26. ^ "NFL names Matt Birk Director of Football Development". NFL.com. July 10, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  27. ^ "Former Viking Matt Birk starts new south metro high school". kare11.com. April 18, 2019. Retrieved March 5, 2022.
  28. ^ "Former Minnesota Viking Matt Birk joins Scott Jensen's gubernatorial ticket". startribune.com. March 8, 2022. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  29. ^ Craig, Mark (February 1, 2013). "Birk gives some thought to a lifetime of collisions". Star Tribune.
  30. ^ Clauss, Kyle (February 1, 2013). "Baltimore Ravens Player Matt Birk Will Donate His Brain to Boston University For Research". BostInno. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013.
  31. ^ Annie Linskey & Aaron Wilson, Matt Birk joins fight against same-sex marriage, Baltimore Sun (October 1, 2012).
  32. ^ "NFL's Matt Birk: Let's protect marriage -- and speech". Star Tribune. October 2, 2012. Retrieved May 14, 2013.
  33. ^ Matt Birk explains skipping Ravens' White House visit Marc Sessler, NFL.com Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  34. ^ "Matt Birk". c-span.org. January 19, 2018. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  35. ^ "Scott Jensen picks ex-Viking Matt Birk as running mate in campaign for governor". March 9, 2022.
  36. ^ Jensen wins GOP endorsement for governor, Minnesota Public Radio (May 14, 2022).
  37. ^ a b c d Sam Brodey, How GOP Governor Candidates Are 'Blowing It' in the Midwest, Daily Beast (September 23, 2022).
  38. ^ Scott Jensen, Matt Birk say they won't release tax returns before election, Bring Me the News (September 4, 2022).
  39. ^ Rochelle Olson, Walz calls on Jensen and Birk to release their tax returns, Star Tribune (September 1, 2022).
  40. ^ Torey Van Oot, rail Mix: Debates and taxes in the Minnesota governor's race, Axios (August 30, 2022).
  41. ^ "Democrats attack Matt Birk over abortion rights comments". kare11.com. July 19, 2022. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  42. ^ Linder, Brian (July 19, 2022). "Ravens Super Bowl champ Matt Birk running for office, says 'telling women they should have careers' promotes abortion". PennLive. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  43. ^ "Minnesota Republican scrutinized for pro-life speech: 'Our culture loudly but also stealthily promotes' abortions". The Hill. July 21, 2022. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  44. ^ Greta Kaul, Matt Birk attacks Michael Brodkorb on Twitter after poll result, MinnPost (September 7, 2022).
  45. ^ 20 smartest athletes in sports-Sporting News Archived May 23, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  46. ^ "11 Best Wonderlic Scores Ever at NFL Scouting Combine". March 2018.
  47. ^ "Matt Birk speaks up for life". Archdiocese of Baltimore. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  48. ^ "Baltimore Ravens' Matt Birk Stays Centered on Christ". National Catholic Register. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  49. ^ "Matt Birk's HIKE Foundation, Inc". fconline.foundationcenter.org. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  50. ^ "Matt Birk, Baltimore Ravens Center, Named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year". Huffington Post. February 5, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  51. ^ "Ravens' Birk earn Walter Payton Man of the Year Award", NFL.com, February 4, 2012.
  52. ^ "C Matt Birk Named 2011 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year". BaltimoreRavens.com (Press release).

Further reading