|His high school coach says everything Patrick Chung does on a football field is at full speed. (File/Scott Boehm/Getty Images)|
Hits just keep coming from Chung
Delivering big hits runs in Patrick Chung's family.
The newest Patriots safety, who will be introduced today at Gillette Stadium, is the progeny of Jamaican parents who before they produced Chung made sweet music together on the reggae charts.
Chung's mother, Sophia George-Chung, was a reggae singer in the 1980s, and his father, Ronald, was a music producer and Sophia's manager. Sophia's song, "Girlie Girlie," released in 1985, was a No. 1 hit in Jamaica and made it into the top 10 in the United Kingdom. Go to
"He was pretty young. He didn't get to see me perform," said Sophia of Patrick, who was born two years after her biggest hit. "He was quite young when all of that was going on. I think he looks at me as his mom, not this reggae singer. There are times in the house that sometimes the kids play my songs. They have it on the computer. He has some of it on his iPod."
Chung's mother said her son can't sing a bit. But he can deliver hits on the football field with his 5-foot-11-inch, 212-pound frame.
The 21-year-old Chung is a pigskin percussionist. The sound of shoulder pads crashing together is the music of choice for Chung, whose greatest hits can also be found on the Internet. Just go to YouTube and watch Chung wallop wide receivers or level offensive linemen on interception returns and you see why the Patriots made the former University of Oregon safety their top pick in the draft, using the first of their four second-round selections to take him 34th overall.
Born in Jamaica, Chung moved to the United States with his family when he was 10 years old. His family settled in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., located about 40 miles east of Los Angeles.
Chung, who started school in Jamaica when he was 4, didn't play organized football until he was a high school freshman at the age of 13.
"One day he came and said, 'Dad, I'm going to try out for football,' " remembered Ronald, who is half Jamaican and half Chinese. "I said, go ahead. Then he came to me and said, 'Daddy, I'm going to make the team.' I said, yeah, right. I went up there to watch him, and he was killing everybody."
By the end of his sophomore year, Chung was on the Rancho Cucamonga High varsity team as a 14-year-old. He played wide receiver and defensive back on teams with two future NFL players, Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas and Lions safety Gerald Alexander.
Former Rancho Cucamonga coach Chris Van Duin said that often the coaches had to remind themselves during Chung's senior year that they were still dealing with a 16-year-old.
Chung has always approached the game with a youthful exuberance.
"Most kids don't run full speed in practice most of the time; they do it just enough to make it look good," said Van Duin. "With him, it was every drill was full speed, and he would have stayed longer if we didn't have families to go home to."
It was that type of effort that ultimately quelled any concerns that Oregon secondary coach John Neal had about whether Chung could play in the Pac-10. Neal remembered before going out on a recruiting trip that he saw a video of Chung plowing through a returner on kickoff coverage at full speed.
"I went and watched him play, and he didn't have a great game," said Neal. "He didn't make a lot of plays, but I went back to that one tackle he made and said he can do it. His sophomore year against Washington he did the same thing; he ran over a running back and just kept going. I said, 'That's why I took you.' "
When Chung stepped on the Oregon campus as a 16-year-old true freshman in August 2004, he didn't have his license yet - Chung didn't become a licensed driver until last December.
Neal immediately knew he had something special. Chung was already his best rover from a talent standpoint, but the Ducks still elected to redshirt Chung because of his age and the demands of the rover spot.
Cautious coaches were the only ones who could hold Chung back, as the next year he became a starter at rover, beginning his school-record streak of 51 starts, a mark he shares with center Max Unger, who was chosen 49th overall last Saturday by the Seahawks.
A two-time first-team All-Pac-10 selection, Chung finished his career with 384 tackles, 9 interceptions, 19 tackles for loss, 26 passes defended, and 4 sacks.
Neal said it takes a unique talent to play rover in Oregon's scheme.
"He's got to be a blitzer. He's got to be a linebacker sometimes. He's got to be a deep-third corner. He's got to be a middle safety, a half safety, and he's got to be able to cover a wide receiver man to man," said Neal. "No position asks a guy to do more. When I get another guy who can do that, it will be awhile."
While Chung's versatility fits the Patriots' player profile, so does his personality. Neal said that during Oregon's preparations for the Holiday Bowl, Chung volunteered to play scout team wide receiver. Chung would often do push-ups and sit-ups between drills during practice.
"He absolutely loves football," said Neal, who has been coaching for 27 years. "He is a football junkie. I'm not sure I've ever seen anybody who loves football more in my whole career at any level. He loves practices, loves lifting, loves games. I think that's why the Patriots took him; he is all about the business of football."
Sophia and Ronald are no longer in the music business. Sophia works for a medical management company doing background checks on doctors. Ronald is a real estate document courier.
Patrick is now the performer in the family.
"I told him when you're in that kind of a limelight you have to take the bitter with the sweet, not everybody will like you and like what you do," said Sophia. "You're a public figure. You're no longer just Patrick Chung."
Only time will tell if Chung is a hit in the NFL.
Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at email@example.com.