Ex-Vikings center Matt Birk has been named the NFL’s new Director of Player Development, per Ian Rapaport. Matt Birk played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1998 to 2008 as a sixth-round pick from Harvard. He went to high school in Minnesota, at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul.
He made six Pro Bowls while with Minnesota (missing out in 2002 and 2005, but making every other one between 2000 and 2007) and two All-Pro teams. He won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2011 with the Ravens and won the Minnesota Vikings Man of the Year award six times (and the Ed Block Courage award in 2007).
Birk founded the HIKE Foundation, which works with at-risk children to provide them with educational opportunities and has worked with 100,000 children in the Baltimore area alone to teach them to read. There’s little question about his character, though he has made political waves with ardently conservative politics. He is a pro-life activist, and penned an Op-Ed in the Star Tribune in favor of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. For these reasons, he refused to visit President Obama with the rest of the Ravens team after winning the Super Bowl.
All that aside, Matt Birk is probably a perfect person for this role. He cares a lot about many of the problems affecting NFL players and has promised to donate his brain to Boston University in order to advance the understanding of CTE and its relationship to football.
From the NFL Communications blog:
In his new role, Birk will assist in developing the game at all levels of the sport, from players to coaches to front office personnel. He will also assist in the administration of NFL game day operations.
Birk will guide the continued evolution of the Scouting Combine and Regional Combines as well as the annual all-star games for aspiring NFL players, such as the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game.
“I’m very excited to begin this next chapter of my football career,” says Birk, who becomes the eighth former player to take a job at the NFL office, joining Merton Hanks, Dwight Hollier, Patrick Kerney, James Thrash, David Tyree, Troy Vincent and Charles Way. “It’s a real honor for me to be entrusted with developing the game in so many different ways.”
A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Birk will play a leading role in the continuing evolution and emergence of the Career Development Symposium, oversee the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship program and NFL-NCAA Future Football Coaches Academy initiative.
“Matt’s experience as a terrific NFL player, a model citizen in his community and a reputation as a forward-thinking leader make him ideally suited for this role,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations TROY VINCENT. “There is no doubt he will continue to make a positive impact on our game and be a trusted advocate for those who play and coach at every level.”
Birk, who will also serve as a liaison for the Football Operations department on the international development of the game and assist in further strengthening the NFL High School Player Development program, will be based at NFL headquarters in New York.
Troy Vincent was previously the person in that role, but has been promoted since then.