Giving back is apart of Duron Harmon's DNA. The three-time Super Bowl champion has used his star power to help others in a variety of ways over the years, but his upcoming event, Karaoke Night: Singing for Autism at The Grand on Sept. 30, is particularly important to the New England Patriots safety as his nephew Nic is autistc. Ahead, we chat with Harmon about the event, why he's so passionate about autism awareness and more.
Duron Harmon, Jason Kennedy and Sam Slater at the Lenny Zakim Foundation’s Casino Night event.
As an athlete, do you feel a responsibility to give back to your community?
As professional athletes, we have a job to perform on the field and we have a job to perform off the field. God didn’t give us these platforms to worry about what we can get. It’s more how we can serve people and help people and bring light to causes that might not get the light that it needs.
Proceeds from Karaoke Night will go to benefit organizations like Autism Speaks New England, a cause that's near and dear to your heart due to your nephew. Can you tell us a bit more about what inspires you to raise awareness around autism?
Growing up, I didn’t really have a good understanding of what autism was, and just the different severities of autism. I think when my nephew was diagnosed at age 2 or 3, just seeing, the amount of growth over that time period from then until, I mean he’s 10 right now. Honestly, it’s been an up-and-down fight. I see the strength that my sister has, I see what she goes through. I mean, a lot of people think that autism only directly affects the child or the person who has autism, but it’s also the parents and the family who will always have to figure out how they will support that person. So I think just seeing both sides from the family perspective, to looking at my sister, to watching the the constant growth of my nephew, I just felt like this is a cause that just needs to be pushed up more, to be talked about more, to have more awareness be raised. That’s where I felt like I could use my platform to help that cause.
Are there any misconceptions about autism you wish more people were educated on?
I would say just the different levels of autism. People don’t realize that there are people who are functionally living with autism; they’re on a different part of the spectrum. I mean it’s verbal, nonverbal, it’s just so much, you know? I just think the more awareness we raise, the better the kids will benefit to be able to, you know, be in regular classrooms, to be able to have what many people would say is a "normal" upbringing for a child in the school system. So that’s my goal, just to continue to help and raise awareness for that.
Going back to Karaoke Night, what's your go-to karaoke song?
I’m still trying to figure it out. I mean, I’ve been getting some practice going on in the shower. They say that’s the place that everyone’s sure that they can sing, like that’s my own music booth, so I’ve been practicing, but you know what? I’ll probably say, Kanye West’s “All Falls Down,” that’s probably one of my favorite songs, and that’s the song that, when the time is right doing karaoke, I’m gonna give my best Kanye West impression.
Since the event will feature appearances by some of your teammates, who's the best singer in the Patriots locker room?
Ooh, you know what, I’m gonna give you two guys. Byron [Cowart] is a rookie, he just got here from Maryland. It’s crazy, because Byron’s so big and you just wouldn’t think a guy so violent playing the game of football could sing the way he does. But then I would have to say it’s a tie with Ja’Whaun Bentley too, between those two guys, Byron and Ja’Whaun. I mean those guys can really sing, and I told them, just don’t take too much of the attention off the cause when you guys go up there and sing, because I’m telling you, those guys are really, really talented and they have really good voices. I’m eager to see what songs those guys sing.
Karaoke Night: Singing for Autism, Sept. 30, 6 p.m.-10 p.m., The Grand, 58 Seaport Blvd., #Suite 300, eventbrite.com
Photography by: Photo by Michael Blanchard Photography