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Updated: February 4th, 2012 6:31pm
Ex-Viking Matt Birk is NFL's 'Walter Payton Man of the Year' honoree

Ex-Viking Matt Birk is NFL's 'Walter Payton Man of the Year' honoree

by Judd Zulgad
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St. Paul native and former Minnesota Vikings center Matt Birk was recognized for his on- and off-the-field work Saturday when it was announced he had been named the NFL's "Walter Payton Man of the Year" award winner.

Birk, who has been with the Baltimore Ravens for the past three years after playing for the Vikings from 1998 to 2008, has spent countless hours working in the community both in Minnesota and Baltimore.

Birk organized the "Ready, Set, Read!" program in certain public schools in the Baltimore area in an attempt to encourage more than 50,000 students to read at home. He served as the "Reading Spokesman," for Baltimore city elementary and middle schools.

During his time with the Vikings, Birk started his H.I.K.E. (Hope, Inspiration, Knowledge and Education) Foundation to provide at-risk kids with educational opportunities needed for them to be successful in school.

He also has launched the program in Baltimore and received $1,000 for H.I.K.E. when he was selected as the Ravens' "Walter Payton Man of the Year" winner for this season.

Birk was the Vikings' Man of the Year seven times, earning the honor from 2002 to 2008.

As a national finalist for the Payton award, Birk received an additional $5,000 for the H.I.K.E. Foundation, and he will now get $25,000 to put toward it after winning the national honor over San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman.

The Payton award is named after the great Chicago Bears' running back, who passed away in 1999 at the age of 45 after battling a liver disease.

The honor recognizes a player for his standout community service, as well as his play on the field.

Former Vikings safety Madieu Williams earned the national honor last year. 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Madieu Williams