Former Minnesota Vikings center Matt Birk is passionate about helping young people.
The six-time Pro Bowl, two-time All Pro, and Super Bowl champion will be the keynote speaker at the Brainerd Elks annual Fishing Fling fundraiser May 9 at the Brainerd National Guard Armory. Proceeds from the event will go to the Elks Youth Activities Fund, which provides scholarships to area high school students and supports the State Elks Youth Camp on Pelican Lake.
"When it comes to kids, I look back and feel fortunate to have success in my life and it's due to the fact that there's been a lot people along the way who took an interest in me and helped me out," Birk said in a phone interview last week. "I like young people. I like their energy and their optimism. I love to do whatever I can to give back and help somebody out. "
A 1994 graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, Birk went on to play football at Harvard and was drafted in 1998 in the sixth round by the Vikings. During his first two seasons, he played in 22 games as a backup offensive lineman. He took over as the starting center in 2000 and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time. He made the Pro Bowl team again in 2001, 2003 and 2004.
In 2004, Birk missed the last four games because of an injury and missed the entire 2005 season because of surgery. He returned to anchor the Minnesota offensive line in 2006 and earned his fifth career Pro Bowl selection at center. In 2007, he was selected to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time and was named the Vikings Man of the Year for the sixth year in a row.
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Elks Fishing Fling
- Speaker: Matt Birk
- Where: Brainerd National Guard Armory, 1115 Wright St.
- When: May 9, social hour 5 p.m., dinner 7 p.m., program/prizes 8 p.m.
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After 11 years with Minnesota, Birk became an unrestricted free agent in the 2009 offseason and signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens, for whom he played for four years. Two months after the Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, he announced his retirement Feb. 22, 2013.
In addition to his on-field success, Birk has been equally driven off the field by his passion for children and education. In 2002, he established the HIKE Foundation (Hope, Inspiration, Knowledge, Education), which seeks to impact the lives of at-risk children by providing programs and resources for children through transitions between elementary, middle, high school and college.
In 2006, his Viking teammates voted to award him the Ed Block Courage Award for his work with children. In 2011, while with the Ravens, he received the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his commitment to improving literacy among at-risk youths.
Unsure of what the next step would be following retirement, Birk wrote a book, "All-Pro Wisdom: The 7 Choices That Lead to Greatness." In 2014, he was named NFL Director of Football Development by Commissioner Roger Goodell and continues to work with the NFL as a special adviser.
Today, in addition to his work with the NFL, Birk travels around the country as a business consultant and speaks to organizations about leadership principles, dynamics of teamwork, fulfilling your potential and the value of inspiration.
In addition, Birk and his wife, Adrianna, are busy raising eight children (ages 1-18). Last summer they moved back to the Twin Cities with their family after spending several years in New York and Florida. Birk said he is looking forward to being in Minnesota for a time.
"A long time ago, someone gave me something," he said. "They said a hundred years from now, it won't matter what kind of house you lived in, what kind of car you drove, or what your bank account was, but what will matter is if you made the difference in the life of a child. I believe in that. I was fortunate that so many people invested in me and I love being able to give back and help others."
Fishing Fling tickets
• Tickets, which cost $60 each, are on sale. Contact any Brainerd Elks member or call the Elks Lodge at 218-829-2643 after 3 p.m.
• Meal is a choice of prime rib or chicken supreme.
• Prizes include: two-day/three-night trip for four to Voyagaire Lodge on Crane Lake; aluminum utility trailer from Brainerd Recreation Supply; $500 gift certificate to Cub Foods; Gopher football weekend including lodging; Gull Lake dinner cruise for four from Destiny Cruises; and a guided fishing trip with Glen Belgum. Rods, reels, tackle boxes, framed prints, coolers and other sports equipment will be given away.