Tag Archives: NFL

Matt Birk – 2019 Summit Speaker

SUPER BOWL CHAMPION TACKLES INTERSECTION OF FAITH AND FOOTBALL

As an NFL player for 15 years, Matt Birk enjoyed a long, successful career, winning the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013 and being named to the Pro Bowl six times.

Birk, 43, who played football at Harvard University before he was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 1998, is also a devout Catholic who was recognized for his community service work by winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2011.

Birk remains passionate about his Catholic faith and is active in the pro-life movement. He and his wife, Adrianna, live in St. Paul, Minnesota, with their eight children, ages 2-16. Birk is a featured speaker at the Legatus Summit in January. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

What will you be speaking on at the Summit?

People are surprised to learn that football is a very spiritual game. The locker room is a very spiritual place. The NFL is this huge thing. It’s a highly visible job and you experience very high highs and very low lows. As a player, there’s a certain element of danger because it’s a physical game. For a lot of guys, myself included, faith is actually strengthened by playing football.

You have to tap into that because otherwise it’s really hard to survive in this fantasy world that’s the NFL, where you have money, fame, and all these people telling you how great you are. You need an anchor, something that keeps you grounded and keeps you focused on what’s real and what’s the truth. That’s where my Catholic faith came into play.

How did you become a practicing Catholic during your NFL career?

I went to a Bible study and started asking some questions. The chaplain mentioned that he used to be Catholic but that he left the faith. I took it personally from the standpoint that, “Geez, I better figure out what I believe.” That put me on my own personal quest for truth. I dug deeper, learned more and began to really appreciate the faith and sort of claimed it as my own.

What did you discover that made you claim the Catholic faith as your own?

Reading some of the arguments against the Church, I realized that the Scripture passage is true, that the Church is the pillar of Truth and that it will prevail against the gates of hell. All the things that have happened in the Church and all the sins of men 2000 years later, the Church is still thriving. To me, that was kind of like the truth that the Church is real, that it is the Church that Jesus established and that it will prevail over all evil.

What was it like to win a Super Bowl?

With that Ravens team in particular, three years prior we had gotten close but lost some games in heart-breaking fashion. There was a feeling on that team that we were all brought together at that time for some reason, that God was at work. There was this belief that there was a purpose to everything we were doing.

Were people surprised to learn that an NFL Pro Bowl offensive lineman attended Harvard University?

Oh yes, especially back then. Anytime they mentioned me on TV, they’d say, “Oh, Matt Birk went to Harvard.” It became sort of my tagline.

How did you get involved in pro-life work?

I speak a lot at pro-life events. I’m on the board of a life center here in the Twin Cities. I spoke at the March for Life a few times. I’m just trying to use my gifts and my platform to advocate for the unborn.

Have you had any prior interaction with Legatus?

I’ve known Legatus for a long time. I spoke at the Legatus Chapter in Naples, Florida last year. Legatus is a great organization. In the workplace, Legatus can be a gateway to the Gospel. I think it’s a great organization to help people stay the course.

From the big league to God’s team

Tampa chaplain FR. CARL MELCHIOR used to work for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers . . .

Fr. Carl Melchior

Fr. Carl Melchior

Fr. Carl Melchior
Tampa Bay Chapter

Many people who meet Fr. Carl “Buster” Melchior are surprised when they learn that the 52-year-old priest worked nine years as an assistant equipment manager for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Father Melchior also worked in sports medicine for almost six years until his soul-searching led him to consider the priesthood and enter the seminary in his mid 30s. Ordained six years ago, he currently serves as vocations director for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla., and helps young men discern if God has also called them to the priesthood. He spoke to Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant Brian Fraga.

When did you first think you might become a priest?

It was always there. It kind of vanished in high school. I went to college and then worked for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for nine seasons. I continued to go to Mass. Then when I was around 30, the call to priesthood came back. The Lord kind of let me have football. He basically said, “OK, this is what you want. This is what you’re going to get.” And it wasn’t as fulfilling as I probably thought it was going to be when I was 19 or 20.

As director of the Office of Vocations for the diocese, what do you do?

My role is to promote priestly vocations and to help those men who have discerned to walk through the process of entering seminary, as well as being a liaison for the bishop’s office to the seminary and working with the men who are in formation.

How did you become involved with Legatus?

A year-and-a-half into ordination, Fr. Ken Malley — who was a very good friend of mine, who vested me in my ordination, who was my first pastor — was also a Legatus chaplain. We were at Mass with the bishop, and Fr. Ken said he had prayed about it and that it was time for him to step down as Legatus chaplain. Father Ken looked at me and said, “Would you like to do it? You know everybody. You’d be a good fit.” The bishop looked at me and said, “If you would like it, I’ll appoint you.” And that’s really kind of how it happened.

How would you describe your experience with Legatus?

It’s kind of a parish for me. Legatus members minister to me, and I minister to them. It’s a nice step back from the specific ministry I do with young people discerning their vocation into a different ministry.

Do you have any advice for business leaders?

A business leader, like a seminarian in certain aspects, can lose sight of what they’re called to. So when I think of Catholic business leaders, I think one of my roles is to remind them that the Lord is really leading them. The Lord is guiding them, and the Lord’s hand is present even in those tough times when they have to make a tough business decision.

What is something people are surprised to learn about you?

That I spent nine years with an NFL football team and now I’m a Catholic priest. That’s kind of two things people don’t equate together.

I’m still an avid Tampa Bay Buccaneer fan. We have the NFL Draft coming up, a high holy day in my life. The University of Florida Gators and the Bucs are my top teams. I grew up in Tampa, on the bay, so I fished all my life. I still enjoy being out on the bay. I don’t do it quite as much as I would like to. There isn’t a lot of time to relax here.

BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.