While a missed field goal kept 14-year NFL veteran Matt Birk '98 out of uniform in Indianapolis this weekend, the two-time All-Pro center managed to end the season on top in a different way.
Birk was just named the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year and will be honored at the Super Bowl before the start of the contest.
Traditionally, the award is given to a player who combines superb play on the field with significant community service accomplishments off of it.
The H.I.K.E. Foundation, which will earn $20,000 thanks to the award, stands for "Hope. Inspiration. Knowledge. Education.,” and has two programs: "Ready, Set, Read!" and "Read and Rise." While both focus on encouraging literacy, the two take different approaches.
"Ready, Set, Read!" is a program that works with Baltimore-area public schools to encourage children to read at home. The program offers incentives such as Ravens tickets to motivated children, and Birk serves as a spokesperson for the program.
"Read and Rise," meanwhile, focuses on working with families, communities, and schools to encourage reading.
On the field, Birk was just as impressive. While he had trouble stopping the Patriots' Vince Wilfork, Birk was unflappable for most of the season.
Birk and the Baltimore offensive line helped running back Ray Rice finish second in rushing yards among NFL running backs, and as a team, the Ravens were seventh in rushing overall.
Baltimore finished the regular season second in the AFC and nearly took the New England Patriots to overtime in the AFC Championship.