As a sixth-round pick out of Harvard, Birk was consumed by the fight to keep his job through each day.
"I remember my first training camp, I was just about crying myself to sleep," said Birk, the
A decade and a half later, Birk will snap the ball to quarterback
"I never thought it would last this long," said Birk, who has started every game in his four-year career with the Ravens. "You say 200 games and I guess you have to take a step back, take a breath and give thanks to God and to a lot of people for making it this far. I feel extremely fortunate not just to play this long, but the teams that I've been on, the guys that I've played with, the friends that I've made. It's been a heck of an experience. It doesn't feel like it's been that long for me. In a lot of ways, it feels like I just started. Every week and every season is kind of like a fresh start and you kind of just focus on that."
For comparison's sake, Ravens middle linebacker
Birk will also start his 109th consecutive game Sunday, the longest streak in the NFL at his position. The 36-year-old, six-time Pro Bowl selection hasn't missed a game since sitting out the entire 2005 season because of hip and sports hernia injuries.
"Those are things that us guys up front, we don't really keep up with, but to know that you're hitting a milestone like that is a huge accomplishment," said Ravens guard
The Ravens signed Birk before the 2009 season after their center
"I just remember when we lost Jason Brown and they were saying, 'We have a chance of getting Matt Birk.' I said, 'You have to be kidding me. This is one of the great centers of all time,'" Ravens offensive coordinator
Birk, who is active in several charities and has long been an advocate for at-risk kids, was named the 2011
However, feeling good health-wise and convinced that the Ravens were close to winning a
"My mantra my whole career is just try as hard as I can, put as much effort as I can in meetings, in practices and in games, in everything, and just see where it ends up. That philosophy has served me well," Birk said. "I think you get to a certain age where nobody knows how it's going to end but it is going to end. Then, you have the rest of your life and you're never going to be able to get this back — the adrenaline of Sundays, the locker room. Those are unique things. You're not going to be able to replace those with something that is the same or comparable. I just enjoy all those things and basically just want to continue to honor the game and prepare and play the right way."