Baltimore Ravens' Matt Birk was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Saturday for his commitment to improving literacy among at-risk youth.
The Ravens' center was up against Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers and Charles Tillman of the Chicago Bears for the only NFL award that recognizes outstanding community service off of the field, according to NFL.com. Each of the 32 nominees received $1,000 for the charity of their choice and the three finalists got an additional $5,000.
Birk, who has now won the prestigious award eight times, walked away with the Gladiator statue, an original work of art by sculptor Daniel Schwartz and $20,000 for his favorite cause, Baltimoreravens.com reports.
The Harvard graduate's "Ready, Set, Read!" program, which is affiliated with the HIKE Foundation, works with about 100,000 Baltimore students on improving their reading skills through an incentive-based system. Birk has also agreed to donate his brain and spinal cord tissue to the Center for Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University's School of Medicine for head trauma research.
"I am honored and truly humbled to be named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year," Birk said in a statement. "This award is not about the recipient, but rather a celebration of the decades-long tradition of NFL players using their unique platform to touch lives and make a positive and lasting impact in the communities in which they work and live."
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