Birk was a bird of a different feather

Birk was a bird of a different feather
February 22, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Matt Birk was unique in so many ways. 

There aren't many football players from Harvard who make the Pro Bowl after being a late-round draft pick. There also aren't many NFL players that announce their retirement in an elementary school library. But that's perfect Matt Birk. 

Birk had waited 15 years to make the Super Bowl and finally got in this year. So, like teammate Ray Lewis, Birk goes out on top. He didn't look for, seek or want the spotlight like many pro athletes. That just wasn't his way. 

Entering the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick from Harvard, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound center just wanted to stay in the league. He did just that, becoming one of the league's most respected lineman. 

He played the final four years with the Ravens, and Birk was someone different. Football wasn't what he built his life around. He was very interested in helping the community. Pro athletes can use their influence to do big things away from the field, and many often forget this-- Birk never did. 

That's why he won the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2011. It's also why people shouldn't be surprised that he made his retirement announcement when at the Battle Grove Elementary School in Dundalk while he was helping to dedicate a community reading center.

Birk was part of a dying breed-- the athlete who knows there's more to the world than the games. The fact that he's a father with six children also means a lot to him. 

I saw him with a few of his kids eating lunch one day last winter. He looked like any other father, spending most of his time going for napkins and helping keep his little kids clean. And that proved to be a real effort. 

Birk would have turned 37 this season. That's why his answer to a student's question about why he was retiring shouldn't surprise anyone. 

"I'm old. I've got six kids. It's time to do something else," Birk said, according to various media and Twitter reports. 

A typical Matt Birk answer. Unique and honest. The Ravens will miss him.