Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk announced his retirement from the National Football League three weeks after winning a Super Bowl title to cap a 15-season career.
Birk, 36, was picked for six Pro Bowls in 210 games with the Minnesota Vikings and the Ravens after being selected in the sixth round of the 1998 draft out of Harvard University, where he graduated with a degree in economics. The father of six also won the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2011.
“I’m old,” Birk told pupils at Battle Grove Elementary School in Baltimore, according to the Ravens’ Twitter feed. “I’ve got six kids. It’s time to do something else.”
Isaiah Kacyvenski, who played with Birk at Harvard before reaching the Super Bowl in 2006 as a linebacker with the Seattle Seahawks, said the offensive lineman’s combination of brains and athletic talent earned him the lasting respect of his peers in both college and the pros.
“He will go down as the best player in Harvard history, bar none,” Kacyvenski, who earned an MBA at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based school and now directs sports business at the biomedical technology company MC10 Inc., said in a telephone interview before the Super Bowl. “It’s going to be hard for anyone to match what he’s done.”
Harvard won the Ivy League title with a 9-1 record in Birk’s senior year. Coach Tim Murphy said in an e-mail before the Super Bowl that Birk improved more in four years than any other player he’d coached, and was “relentless in his pursuit of making it in the NFL.”
Birk played with the Vikings for 11 years before joining the Ravens for the 2009 season. Baltimore beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 to win the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Feb. 3.
The center had two years remaining on a three-year, $8.5 million contract with base salaries of $2.75 million in 2013 and 2014, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Birk said in an interview before the Super Bowl that he considered working on Wall Street until the NFL offered him a chance to play at football’s highest level.
“It’s not like you can put it off,” Birk said. “Wall Street would always be there when it didn’t work out. Maybe I’d delay the real world for six months; I didn’t expect to play football for 15 years.”
Birk was visiting the school as part of his Ready, Set, Read! program, which works with about 100,000 students in Baltimore, according to the Ravens.