Winning Super Bowl XLVII was bittersweet for Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk. While it was the highlight of his professional football career, it also made him contemplate his future in the National Football League (NFL).
Thursday night he made the decision to retire. Friday, the former sixth round draft pick from Harvard announced his retirement in the library of Battle Grove Elementary School in Baltimore.
It was only fitting that Birk made the announcement at an elementary school instead of a press conference. He did it in a school because he loves working with kids.
Birk was at Battle Grove to announce that his HIKE Foundation will open the “Larry Bryant Reading Oasis” at the school. Bryant is a special needs 5th grader who bonded with Birk this year.
The 15-year veteran center was the 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year. He spent his first 11 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, his last four with the Baltimore Ravens.
As a Raven he never missed a start, he had 136 straight regular season starts since 2006. His 2012 season was one of his best especially during the playoff run.
Birk said he contemplated retirement for the last six years, but was finally ready to end his career to focus on his family and six children:
“I’m old. I have six kids. It’s just time,” Birk said. “I really enjoyed playing football I got to play it for a long time. I’ve been very fortunate. I just feel like it’s time to do something else.”
He was well respected among his teammates and served as a mentor for rookies Gino Gradkowski and Kelechi Osemele. Gradkowski is likely to be his successor.
His teammates tweeted touching messages about his retirement:
“Life without Matt Birk is going to be a very Difficult challenge,” tackle Michael Oher tweeted. “can’t imagine not playing with him. Best leader ever. Will be missed!”
Last season he signed a three-year contract to be sure he retired as a Raven. His retirement will save them $2.05 million against the salary cap.
While he isn’t sure what he will do with his time, he is looking forward to not having a plan:
“I certainly didn’t plan on playing football for 15 years,” Birk said. “So kind of not having a plan has worked out for me so far, so I’m going to stick with it.
Matt Birk was a tremendous asset to the Ravens organization and the city of Baltimore. His influence on his teammates will be felt in the locker room and on the field. I’m sure we won’t be seeing the last of Birk, he is likely to stay active in the community.