Former NFL center and Super Bowl champion Matt Birk’s reputation as an outspoken Catholic is well-known.
Still, it might surprise you to learn to whom he looks up these days.
“I look at when I was growing up, my heroes were professional athletes,” said the former Minnesota Viking and Baltimore Raven who played in six Pro Bowls. “Nowadays, my heroes are priests.”
Birk played football at Cretin Derham-Hall High school in St. Paul and Harvard University before a 14-year professional career that saw him spend 10 years with his hometown professional team, then four with the Ravens. Baltimore won the Super Bowl in 2013, after which Birk announced his retirement.
The next year, he was named the NFL’s director of player development.
Birk has long been an active member of the pro-life movement; he spoke at the 2018 March for Life in Washington, D.C. He has publicly stood up for the defense of marriage between a man and a woman during his time in the public sphere, too.
He also established the HIKE foundation, which seeks to “impact the lives of at-risk children by providing interactive programs and resources needed to guide a child through the key educational transitions between elementary, middle, high school and college.”
The father of eight spends a lot of his time coaching his children in football and other sports these days. He also tries to get out to the golf course — which is where Birk shared some of his thoughts on his faith and the leaders who tie it altogether.
“We kind of have a front row to the future of the church,” Birk said at the St. John Vianney College Seminary’s annual Vianney Cup golf tournament this fall. “It’s great to have [the seminary] here, not just to support it because we know it’s important, but to be able to go over there and visit or attend Mass or other events that … the seminary’s putting on.
“All these good, holy priests we have, not just in this archdiocese but throughout the world, it’s such a source of encouragement for me to keep going and just to keep fighting the fight and running the race.”