PATRICK CHUNG is a rover, a description that fit him even before Oregon's defensive terminology officially made him one. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of a reggae singer and a music producer, Chung began a journey to Eugene that included family moves to Florida and California before he arrived in the Ducks' secondary, playing the hybrid safety-linebacker position that allows him to roam all over the field.
He has traveled a long way in another sense as well, developing from a self-described clueless 16-year-old freshman into an experienced, seen-it-all senior and second-team All-America. "He's a leader not just of the secondary but of the entire defense," says coach Mike Bellotti. "He's been a starter since he was a redshirt freshman, so there's not much other teams can throw at him that he hasn't had a look at. I think the other 10 guys on the field can all draw on his experience."
The Ducks nearly lost the benefit of all that wisdom when Chung declared for the NFL draft, but he withdrew his name before the deadline. His return—along with cornerbacks Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond III, who combined for 12 interceptions last season—gives Oregon one of the best secondaries in the country. That defensive strength should help carry the normally high-scoring Ducks early as they adjust to the loss of their two main offensive weapons of a year ago, quarterback Dennis Dixon and running back Jonathan Stewart, both of whom moved on to the NFL.
Chung may join them there in a year, adding another stop to his itinerary that would have seemed unlikely during his time in Kingston. Because children in Jamaica often start school a year earlier than their American counterparts, Chung was younger than most kids in his grade once he got to the U.S., which is why he was still a few days shy of his 17th birthday when he began college.
Once he got his bearings, Chung proved himself to be a big hitter with the kind of instincts and coverage ability that allowed the Ducks to line him up in a variety of spots.
His football success has given the Chungs another performer in the family. Patrick doesn't recall watching his mother, Sophia George, on stage when he was a child although she and his father, Ronald Chung, toured with him when he was a toddler. If all goes well for Oregon, perhaps his parents can accompany him on the road in January: to a BCS game.