Q&A: Being Patrick Chung

Patriots' safety opens up about his charity, love for music and his post-NFL dream of firefighting.

Patrick Chung returned to New England this year after one season in Philadelphia.

Patrick Chung, 26, played for the Patriots for his first four seasons, before leaving to play for the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent before the 2013 season. After one year away, the former second-round pick is back in New England, hoping to solidify his spot on the roster. He’s also working on his charity, Chung Changing Lives, which collaborated with the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center to hold a free, six-week intensive SMART camp (Summer Music Academy for Real Teens) for kids to get immersed in music. It’s the second year of the camp, and it culminates with a performance in the Chung Jam Session on Aug. 17 at the Hard Rock Cafe. Doors open at 6 pm, jams begin at 6:30, and tickets are $50 (VIP, $250) at ticketweb.com, with proceeds going to SMART. And Chung assures us that some of his famous football friends will be in attendance. The Jamaican-born player opened up to The Improper on the program, his mom’s musical stardom, returning to New England and his possible post-NFL plans.

Matt Martinelli: Is Chung Changing Lives primarily focused on music?
Patrick Chung: We just started out with music. Hopefully we can branch out into other things. And it can be like academics and athletics. But right now we’re just starting with music camp, and the finale is Aug. 17 at Hard Rock Cafe. And you can watch the kids perform in the finale for what they’ve been working on since July 7, when the camp started. They can perform for family and friends, and everyone who buys tickets. There’s going to be some performances by local artist Louie Bello, JAM’N 94.5’s Maverick. It’s going to be a good turnout, and hopefully the kids have fun.

How often is the camp?
Every day since July 7, they’ve been working, doing their producing, laying down their vocals, and learning how to do video and that stuff. Everything that has to do with music, and every aspect of music, they’ve worked with, and finally they can display what they’ve been practicing and learning. I talked to Louie the other day, and he said there are lots of talented kids, and they’re really good.

Have you gotten a chance to swing by the camp at all?
Oh yeah. My wife and I have been by, and we were there for some activities. We were hanging out with the lyric class, watching them learn how to write lyrics. It was fun. There are a lot of kids there, and they’re having fun.

How many kids are in it?
There’s 30. There were 15 last year, and now there’s 30, so it’s doubled a bit.

What got you into music?
My mom was a famous reggae singer (Sophia George-Chung), and my dad was her producer. It kind of just grew on me. I love music. It’s kind of a stress reliever. You have a bad day, you write about it. You have a good day, you write about it. I just like music. It can change your whole mood sometimes. If you hear your favorite song on the radio and you’re having a bad day, it makes it a little better. I just want to keep the art in school. Some schools are shying away from art in school, and I’m trying to keep it in school. It can be constructive in kids’ lives.

Are you listening to anything in particular these days?
I listen to everything. I listen rap, hip-hop, country, alternative, rock—as long as it has a story, a message and a good vibe to it, I like it.

Do you still listen to your mom’s music?
Yeah, I listen to everything. Every once in a while, her song will come on the iPod.

Even though you were not playing in New England last year, this camp has been in Boston both of the past two years. Was there any reason behind that?
We started it out here in Boston. I feel like I’m going to help the city that helped me. Boston and the New England Patriots gave me my first opportunity, so I feel obligated. Even if I didn’t feel obligated, I think it’s the right thing to do to help the city that helped me. Given my opportunity here, I’ve been able to have certain things in my life. So I can give back to the community and do everything I can for this community that helped me.

What’s your favorite part of living in New England now that you’re back? Was there anything you knew you had to visit when you got back here?
Not anything like that. I just like being back. My family’s here. My friends are here, and I was here for years. I just like Boston. It’s a cool place.

Are you here in the offseason as well?
I’m sort of scattered around, mostly wherever I’m training.  But I’m here a fair amount.

What brought you back to New England?
Philly didn’t work out, and I started just working out and training and being ready for whoever calls. I wasn’t really angling to go somewhere. In the NFL, you don’t get to pick a team, they pick you.

Has there been anything different since you were here for the 2012 season?
Nah, it’s pretty much the same. You just work hard and stay out of trouble. That’s what they preach here.

Take me through an offday for you.
Well, you go to the sauna, steam room, veg a little bit. Not too much. You just gotta get your body back right—kind of chill out. I like to barbecue every once in awhile. It all depends. I watch a little film.

What do you barbecue?

And you get to see a little more of your family on the offdays as well?
Absolutely, as soon as I get done, I come home and just chill out. Wrestle with the little man—he’s crazy.

What was it like leaving New England?
It was just a business thing. The past is the past, and I’m where I want to be now. I’m not really worried about anything else. The guys we have in this locker room are good, on and off the field. I’m just happy to be back here.

Is there anything that stands out in your career as the biggest highlight to date?
Well, going to the Super Bowl was awesome. Going was a good experience, but I can’t really call that a greatest moment—you want it to turn out better. So, I’ll put that on hold, right now. I don’t have any yet.

You had that Monday Night game against Miami a few years back that was great, right?
I loved that game, but as far as greatest moment—I got a couple more years, so hopefully there’s a big one coming soon.

Do you have any post-NFL plans in mind?
I think about going into music or coaching or firefighting.

My best friend just got called up as a firefighter. He’s worked very hard, long hours, but it’s a great job. Why not go out there and try to help save some people.

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