MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Matt Birk lived the hometown dream. He grew up in St Paul to become a Minnesota Viking and Pro Bowl center.

“I think as time goes on its just more unbelievable,” Birk said. “I can’t really believe that it happened, you know, the way that it worked out, to be able to play 11 years for the Vikings; the team that after church, my dad and my brothers and I would run home to get in front of the TV to watch them. I mean, personally, I didn’t grow up playing football, so just to have it turn out that way is kind of like a one-in-a-million thing.”

He won his Super Bowl ring playing for Baltimore. He is a veteran at the highest level, and he learned a lot about life during his career.

“We kind of put on this false bravado that, you know, we’re OK, we’re in control no matter what. But we’re not,” Birk said. “We lean on people, we need support.”

This is, in part, the mission he has been on since football. He penned a book on its values, and he has spent a fair amount of time talking to high school athletes and parents.

What has become concrete in his thinking as he now looks back is that kids need high school football because it is one of the greatest educational tools available.

“It’s important for our society and our culture because in a few years, these boys that are playing high school football … they are going to be men,” he said. “And they’re going to be the husbands and the fathers and the leaders of our society.

Birk now works for and with the Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL. He is employed by the league with a focus on outreach to the youth. Goodell says he is an obvious asset to the league.

“I have tremendous respect for him. You know, I got to know Matt a little bit more when he NFL Man of the Year several years ago. And he’s as ever bit of man of the year,” Goodell said. “I think he’s representative of the vast majority of our players who I think do great things in their community, and Matt’s one of those guys. And we were able to attract him to come in and help us be a part of the NFL and make the NFL better, and he does every day. So, we’re proud to have him.”

Birk has joined forces with Brooks Bollinger, another former Viking and current assistant at his alma mater, Cretin-Derham Hall. The pair is developing an app that helps kid and coaches hear from NFL players.

“It’s a way for the coach to begin conversations around important topics with his players,” Birk said.

And so the amazing story of Matt Birk continues. He has moved from Minnesota, but is forever grateful to be a Viking.

“It’s gratitude to all the people that helped me get there, that supported me while I was there,” Birk said. “I think that’s the thing too that people don’t realize. For me, I doubt if I had gone to any other team that I would have made it.”

Mike Max