Chung eager to leave his mark on Patriot foes

July, 3, 2009
7/03/09
2:28
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Pat Chung isn't the type of person to announce his presence with authority.

At least not verbally, anyway.

 
  Jim Rogash/Getty Images
  Patriots rookie safety Pat Chung is hoping to fill the void left by the retired Rodney Harrison.
He's not making any proclamations about what he intends to do as the New England Patriots' top draft pick this year. He says all the properly humble things, that he's ready to get to work, do whatever coach Bill Belichick asks and try his best.

The most notable pronouncement he made when we spoke at the NFL Rookie Symposium this week was that henceforth he wants to be known as Pat Chung. He went by Patrick throughout his four remarkable years at Oregon, the draft process and Patriots minicamp.

But now he prefers Pat. He thinks it has a better ring.

Say "Pat Chung" quickly and the sound has a thumping quality to it: PatChung!

That might be the sound a ball carrier would hear if he crossed paths with Chung, a safety who levies reverberating hits.

"I like being aggressive," Chung said. "That's my game, being aggressive."

I asked him to describe how it feels like to lock onto an unwitting opponent.

"You see him coming. You hit him," Chung said before smiling and pausing a moment to relish the thought. "It's just like a shock. Boom!

"You might blink a little bit right when you hit him, but then you come back and see him on the ground, you're like 'Oh, yeah. He felt that one.' "

Chung's in-the-box nastiness reminds some of the man whose position he hoped to fill. Rodney Harrison retired after six seasons as New England's strong safety. Harrison, known for wicked hits that often bordered on illegal, tore his quadriceps in Week 7 and didn't play again.

Harrison, 36, wanted to play another year, but the Patriots wanted to move on. Their ability to draft Chung 34th overall factored into the decision.

"I wanted to learn from him, actually," Chung said. "He's feisty, man. I love Rodney. Hopefully, I can get in contact with him and he helps me out. I could learn a whole lot from him. He's done everything."

Harrison's absence doesn't guarantee much for Chung, who will head into camp second on the depth chart. Brandon Meriweather, the 24th overall draft choice in 2007, started the final 10 games in Harrison's place and played admirably.

Chung will have to earn his role. Unless he dazzles in training camp, he'll likely be a role player this year.

Chung sounded deferential, but he's excited about the opportunity to compete for Harrison's gig.

"A great one's gone," Chung said of the opportunity. "Someone has to replace him, but we're all there and competing. Whoever's the better player is going to play.

"It doesn't matter to Coach Belichick. It doesn't matter if you're a veteran or a rookie. You have to work hard, and the best player's going to play regardless. I'm ready to work hard."

Even without Harrison, Chung is reveling in what the Patriots' organization has to offer.

"It's amazing," Chung said. "There's a lot of old-school guys on the Patriots. That's experience. That's learning from the best that's been in the NFL the past 10, 15 years. I'm honestly blessed to be on that team. There's a lot of people I can learn from."

Chung's rise, like some of his tackles, has been meteoric.

He is the son of reggae singer Sophia George-Chung and music producer Ronald Chung, who is half Jamaican and half Chinese. Pat was born in Kingston, Jamaica. The family moved to Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., when he was 10. He didn't play football until his freshman year of high school.

Chung was only 16 years old when he went to play at Oregon. He turned 17 the August of his redshirt freshman season. But he started every game of his college career, 51 of them in all.

He left Oregon with 384 tackles (fourth in school history), nine interceptions, 26 pass deflections, 19 tackles for losses and four sacks.

Chung's getting itchy for NFL action. He hasn't been involved in full contact since the Senior Bowl.

"I'm ready to go," Chung said. "No one's had pads on for months. Everybody's ready to go. It's going to be fun."

Except the receiver coming across the middle.

PatChung!

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