Matt Birk back in Baltimore yesterday…a champion, still

February 28, 2014 | Drew Forrester

In the midst of troubling stories about local athletes like Ray Rice and Deonte Thompson, I’ll brighten your morning with a story about a guy who showed up here five years ago and did a lot of great work in our community and helped the Ravens win a title in 2012. He was in town again yesterday, promoting his new book, All-Pro Wisdom.

I’m talking, of course, about former Ravens center Matt Birk.

Birk appeared last night at Greetings and Readings in Hunt Valley to sign copies of his outstanding book and was met by a line of over 75 people when he showed up shortly before 7pm.  As I was leaving shortly thereafter, more folks were flowing in to meet the former Ravens player.

They don’t make ’em like Matt Birk anymore.

When he was signed by the Ravens in 2009, Birk was already established in Minnesota having spent eleven seasons with the Vikings.  It would have been easy for him to have just left his family in St. Paul and done the whole “Daddy has to go work somewhere else for five months” deal that a lot of athletes do when they don’t want to uproot their wife and children, but Birk and his family moved to Baltimore.  He brought with him an extraordinary foundation he created from scratch in Minnesota — the H.I.K.E. Foundation — and quickly put it into action in Baltimore.

I’ve been involved in a lot of player-related civic and charity endeavors in my sports/media career, but very few of them have a true, grass roots impact like Birk’s Foundation did.  Often times, and the stories are out there and documented, players use their Foundations to employ family members, friends, etc. and the percentage of the money brought in vs. money distributed or used for community purposes are mysteriously low.  That was never the case with Birk and his Foundation.  Our WNST charity golf outing raised over $5,000 for the H.I.K.E. Foundation in 2012 and Birk purchased 400 text books with that money and then distributed them to inner city schools in need of new science materials.  He also went to the school himself and spent time there reminding the students how important it is to stay in school, work hard and be a good son or daughter.

That’s just one example I can give you of what Matt Birk did for our community when he was here.

One of hundreds of stories, I suppose.

When he retired after the 2012 Super Bowl win, he took his formula for the H.I.K.E. Foundation and turned it over to Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith so he could continue to do the work Birk started when he arrived in Baltimore in 2009.  Smith, I’m certain, will carry the torch and burn it brightly and Baltimore will be better for it.

One final story about Matt Birk.  While visiting with him on radio row at the Super Bowl last month, he noticed the hat I was wearing and said, “What’s that, you’re an Arizona Cardinals fan now that I’m gone?”

I was wearing a Calvert Hall Golf hat.

“No…I’m the golf coach at Calvert Hall…we’re the Cardinals,” I explained.

He turned to his co-author, Rich Chapman — who was with him on radio row talking about their new book — and said, “Let’s send Drew’s golf team a copy of the book.  How many kids are on the team?”

“Fourteen,” I replied.  “I have a big dinner on March 15 to kick off the season.  It would be great to give them all a book that night.”

“Done,” Birk said.  “You’ll get fourteen copies of the book to distribute to your team.”

And that was that.

I’ll have my players on the varsity golf team read Birk’s book and write a brief report on it that I can submit to Birk and Chapman so they see some reciprocation of their friendly gesture.

And they’ll be better golfers and young men for reading it, too.


8 Comments For This Post

  1. Robert Says:

    I didn’t realize it at the time, but when Birk retired, Baltimore lost a lot more than just a solid center. Thanks for this post as a reminder. Cheers.

  2. BmoreB Says:

    Awesome article. It’s always good to read a feel good story when so much is so negative out there.

  3. unitastoberry Says:

    Could be a long time before Ravens get back to the Bowl. That team that should have been in 2 Superbowls back to back was very special. You realize this more and more as time goes by.

  4. Chris Says:

    Birk is definitely one of the good guys. It’s nice reading something about the good that an athlete does. I know there are other great people in professional sports. It’s just a shame it goes as unreported as it does. Good story. Thanks for writing about it.

  5. The Armchair QB Says:

    Not just a great football player, but a class act on and off the field! Cream always rises to the top……

  6. BK Says:

    ***Drew, this is in response to your comment on Wednesday and only because you tried to call me out for something that is absolutely true***

    Drew, whether you know it or not, you are flat out lying now.

    No matter what you think about me, I would not lie in any fashion to bolster an opinion of mine. I have had two separate posts taken down from your site/blog in the past few months and I have proof. It took a while to find one of them, but I knew one instance was the same day Mike Paskoff was posting back and forth with you. It was Nov 26th, 2013. My post was absolutely, 100% removed sometime that day by your company. You can see the actual proof that I posted earlier that day and then it was removed. SEE ‘JAYS’ COMMENT REFERENCING MY POST SAYING HE WOULD BUY ME A BEER AND AGREEING WITH ME. WHERE IS MY POST PRIOR TO JAYS COMMENT THEN??????? Gone, that is where. My post was somewhere between Jay’s 1st and 2nd comment and it was removed.

    Not only that, Then someone from your company (I assume you), posted something in my name as the last comment of that day as if it was posted the day after. Here it is and I DID NOT make this post, I would not just make a dumb one line comment about not liking you:

    BK Says:
    November 27th, 2013 at 1:48 pm
    I don’t like Drew. (DF: Wow. Really? That’s a shocker.)

    This is not from me and I assumed you did it so you could make the smart a$$ comment back about ‘Really? Shocker….’

    You now have clear proof of what you tried to call me out on in this recent post, not banning my posts. What you say now about not banning people’s posts??????

    (DF: This will be our final discussion about this. I haven’t EVER banned or deleted your post. In fact, I don’t “approve” the ones that get on the site in the first place. Whatever you write gets approved automatically. You have no idea at all what you’re talking about, frankly, when it comes to this kind of stuff. Perhaps someone was having fun with YOU by posting under “BK” which, of course, anyone can do, and posting “I don’t like Drew”. I have no idea. Like I said, I don’t approve any of that stuff, sir. So, this, precisely, is what I’m talking about with regard to you and your contributing to the blogs I write. I’d prefer you take this kind of stuff to me, personally. Email me directly with a complaint about ME and I’ll handle it accordingly. If you don’t contribute to the actual blog written, you’ll be removed from the post for failing to follow the proper protocol. That’s how it’s going to work from this point forward. People are now complaining to me about you…which takes time out of my day to get back to them…which, honestly, I don’t feel like doing. Everyone who contributes to this blog of mine knows you don’t like me. You’ve made that abundantly clear. You’ve won. So, this is it. You make the choice of how you want to proceed from now on. Do not reply to this message, here. This discussion has ended. If you have a reply to make to me about this, you can do it directly ( I appreciate your cooperation.)

  7. BK Says:

    BTW – Nice article. Agree with you 100%. You get a ‘pat on the ass’ for this one.

  8. OVER40DON Says:

    I vote to take down BK’s 1st post on this thread. Really, who cares? (DF: I’ve handled it. Thanks. I’ve had it now with this petty back and forth garbage from him. I’m tired of getting emails from you guys about it. I’m just tired of it. He’ll either get with the program or hit the bricks. I’m moving on.)

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