TANEYTOWN, Md. (WJZ) — This weekend, Baltimore Raven Matt Birk was honored as the NFL’s Man of the Year for work he’s doing to get kids reading and writing.

Monique Griego sat down with a group of kids he’s inspired.

Football players are typically praised for athletics but the Baltimore Ravens’ Matt Birk is being recognized for inspiring future academics. Before the Super Bowl kickoff, Birk was honored as the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for his work in children’s literacy.

“To see that he has a real relationship with reading, sports and education is so important for students to see,” said reading specialist Christine Vincent.

Birk came to Taneytown Elementary last September to kick off his “Ready, Set, Read” program.

“It just goes to show if you really work hard, study hard in school, you can do anything,” said Vincent.

The program gives kids at home reading goals and journals to practice writing.

“It’s once in a lifetime for a football player to come to your school, so I was excited about reading,” said student Tyler Cherneski.

The kids admit they weren’t always excited to go home and start reading but say this program changed that.

“I like the program because it makes me read a lot more than usual,” said student Liam Gambino.

Many of the students felt a special connection to Birk as they watched him receive his award.

“I feel so excited because he did all this work to inspire us,” said student Drew Giles.

So far, they seem to be taking in his message that while careers come and go, an education is forever.

“It made me feel that a Ravens player does like reading more than football a little,” said student Paige Brussels.

The kids win prizes for reaching their reading goals. So far, teachers say the program is working.

Birk graduated from Harvard and is a father of five.

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