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Quick Snap

Nov. 20, 2006
Nov. 20, 2006

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Nov. 20, 2006

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Quick Snap

This game terrorizes you and keeps you awake at night, but that's what keeps me coming back

NFL
Matt Birk
MINNESOTA VIKINGS CENTER

This is an article from the Nov. 20, 2006 issue Original Layout

Having aquarterback stick his hands under your crotch takes a little getting used to. Idon't want to experience that feeling anywhere but on the football field.

Football is thehardest thing I've ever attempted. You push yourself on the outside to see whatyou've got inside.

I went to highschool at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, so technically I'm a Cretin. I'vebeen called worse.

I didn't startplaying football until I was a high school sophomore. I was going to play forone year; then I got talked into another and another. This is my 15th year ofanother.

As a kid I wentthrough a pyromaniac stage and almost lit our neighbor's garage on fire. Myparents were pretty upset, but we didn't get along with the neighbors, so theyweren't that upset.

To help paytuition at Harvard, I joined the dorm crew. When I'd show up at the room of acute girl to scrub her toilet, I knew my chances of getting a date were prettymuch shot.

Every Sunday, Itry to overcome my fear of failure. I'm pretty good at failing now.

I first saw mywife at a greasy spoon, where she was a waitress. I'd go there four times aweek and suck down a dozen ice teas so she'd have to keep refilling myglass.

My parents oncebusted me and my two brothers for stealing a pack of Starbursts. The moral was:Don't steal candy, and if you do, don't leave the wrappers around.

When I came tothe NFL, I wanted to lose the Harvard stigma. But as part of the rookie hazingI had to sing my college fight song, which happens to be in Latin.

When I firstbegan snapping the ball, I'd sometimes rack myself in the family jewels. I usedto worry I'd never have kids, but my wife and I are expecting our thirddaughter, so I guess I'm O.K.

Warren Sapp oncelooked across the line at me and snarled, "Randy Moss says he's the onlyreason you made the Pro Bowl." I said, "He's probably right."

I like therandomness of fishing. Sometimes you catch a fish and you don't know why;sometimes you don't catch one and don't know why.

When you getblindsided and laid out on the ground, you do a systems check. You make sureyou can move your legs and your arms, then pull yourself up off the turf asfast as you can.

The membership ofmy fan club is probably a prime number. A single-digit prime number.

People thinkevery day is glamorous for NFL players, but I'm just a regular guy. I changediapers, I pay the electric bill.

Boston is full ofMass-holes: bitter, cranky, colorful people. People from Minneapolis tend to betrendy, cosmopolitan and a little arrogant. There's no arrogance in St. Paul.And no trends.

I'm just a big,fat guy with red hair who wears flip-flops and baseball caps. I wish I tookmore pride in my appearance.

The best NFL perkis getting to go against the very best. There aren't many people who can saythat about their jobs.

My motto is, Livefor your kids, love your wife, work hard and be honest, but I can't figure outhow to get that done as a tattoo without looking stupid.

FILL IN THEBLANKS

Childhoodnickname: Beef.

Celeb I babysat:Josh Hartnett.

Hero: Sir ThomasMore.

The world's mostoverrated trait: Competitiveness.

My mostdisturbing trait: I laugh loudest at my jokes.

Always by my bed:An electric fan--just for the noise.

Used first NFLpaycheck to ... pay off student loans and buy used pickup.

Greatestextravagance: Fishing poles and reels.

Favorite lure:Scum frog.

Greatest regret:That I didn't study harder in college.

Favorite CD:Appetite for Destruction, Guns N' Roses.

Favorite book:The Old Man and the Sea.

NFL bête noire:Lions defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.

Prized footballmemento: Cretin-Derham High helmet signed by alumni Derek Engler, CorbinLacina, Steve Walsh and Chris Weinke, all of whom made the NFL.

Food eaten everyweek for last seven years: Spicy shredded burrito from Chipotle.

If I weren't afootball player, I'd be ... a Wall Street analyst.

OTHER BIGFISH
Maybe Vince Young is a pretty good catch after all? But is he top five materialin SI's Rookie Watch. Find out at SI.com/nfl.

STATS

$31m
Value of his seven-year extension in 2001, then the richest deal for an NFLcenter

5
Surgeries from July 2004 through September 2005

1120
SAT score

3
Beers he usually needs to solve all the world's problems

PHOTOJEFF FISHBEIN/WIREIMAGE.COMPHOTOPhotograph by Matt BirkCASTINGCOUCH
For Birk, fishing is more therapeutic-- and a lot cheaper--thantherapy.