Ravens center Matt Birk was voted by the team as the 2011 Water Payton Man of the Year, the club announced Friday morning.

Birk was the seven-time Man of the Year for the Minnesota Vikings and named one of three finalists for the 2008 NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

As the anchor of the offensive line, Birk has contributed to a rushing offense that finished the regular season ranked 10th in the NFL.

He has also been active in the community. In addition to establishing the Matt Birk H.I.K.E. Foundation, which stands for hope, inspiration, knowledge and education, he initiated the “Ready, Set, Read!” program in several Baltimore-area public schools to encourage more than 50,000 students to read at home through a system of incentives.

Birk, a father of six, also joined Scholastic to form “Read and Rise,” the H.I.K.E. Foundation’s initiative to link schools, families and communities together in an effort to aid the development of children’s literacy. In the fall of 2011, Birk extended the program to Carroll County in an effort to reach 50,000 additional children. 

The Walter Payton Man of the Year award recognizes a current NFL player for outstanding community service activities and on-field excellence. A local nominee is named from each of the 32 NFL teams, and a panel of judges, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Connie Payton, widow of the late Walter Payton, will choose the eventual national winner.

As the local Walter Payton Man of the Year honoree, Birk will receive $1,000 towards his H.I.K.E. Foundation. The top three finalists, with the announcement to be made this month, will receive an additional $5,000, and the eventual national winner will receive $25,000 towards his respective charity.