FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — He entered the NFL as a long shot.

Now he’s a longtime Patriot.

In his seventh summer in New England, Brandon Bolden is bidding to join Lonie Paxton (nine), Stephen Neal (eight), Mike Wright and Ryan Wendell (seven each) as the only players to play seven-plus seasons under Bill Belichick after breaking in to the league as a rookie free agent.

“It’s an honor, you know, for them to think enough of me to give me another shot,” said Bolden, who signed a one-year, $880,000 deal with the team in February. “Being here this long is … it’s a blessing just to be here every day.

“Coming here with this great group of guys, the locker room, even with the new faces, it hasn’t skipped a beat, it’s kind of the same. So it’s been fun. I’ve had a great time learning some of the new guys’ faces and names and hearing their stories and how they got here. It’s been real interesting this year.”

A lot of “new guys” have come and gone since Bolden arrived.

Only seven Patriots – Tom Brady (2000), Stephen Gostkowski (2006), Matthew Slater (2008), Julian Edelman (2009), Devin McCourty and Rob Gronkowski (2010) and Marcus Cannon (2011) – have been with the team longer.

It was May 10, 2012, when the Patriots originally signed Bolden, who left Mississippi ranked second in school history in total touchdowns (33) and rushing TDs (27), third in all-purpose yards (3,681) and fourth in rushing yards (2,604), as an undrafted free agent.

While Bolden’s contributions as a running back with the Patriots have been modest, he’s developed into a core special teams player.

Released once along the way for just a couple of days – cut on Sept. 2 of last year, he was brought back on Sept. 4 – Bolden has appeared in 83 regular-season games over six seasons with the team, carrying the ball 216 times for 912 yards (a 4.2-yard average) and six touchdowns and catching 47 passes for 373 yards and two TDs. He’s made 28 tackles on special teams, including a career-high eight last year, which tied for second on the team.

In 15 postseason games, Bolden has carried the ball 12 times for 46 yards (a 3.8-yard average), scoring his first playoff TD on Jan. 13 from 2 yards out in the third quarter of the Patriots’ 35-14 divisional win over Tennessee at Gillette Stadium, and made four receptions for 27 yards. He’s been credited with five tackles on special teams in the postseason, including the one that pinned the Atlanta Falcons at their own 11-yard line with 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ 34-28 overtime victory in Super Bowl LI.

That win earned Bolden his second ring, giving him bragging rights in the family over his grandfather Frank Pitts, who earned one back in Super Bowl IV as a wide receiver with the Kansas City Chiefs, carrying the ball three times for 37 yards and catching three passes for 33 yards in their 23-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

Bolden’s value over the years has lain primarily in what he brings on special teams, which has taken on high priority during Belichick’s reign in Foxboro.

“It’s good, fun competition because we know we can’t all do the same things,” said Bolden. “I can’t do the same things (defensive end) Geneo Grissom does. Geneo Grissom can’t do the same things I do. So, you see other guys and their take and aspect on special teams and you learn a lot.

“I’m not the biggest guy, but I got the strength almost like a bigger guy, so I can take a few things from Geneo and I can take a few things from (cornerback) Jonathan Jones, who’s a faster guy, and try to make it my own game. So you learn a lot. Even though we’re competing, we try to teach each other what we can. At the end of the day we’re all here to help the team win.”

Be it on offense or special teams, Bolden says his approach doesn’t change.

“I know how things work here, that’s how we carry ourselves at practice,” he said. “Practice isn’t really practice. This is another chance for you to get better. It’s as close as you’re going to get to game reps other than actually being in the game. So I take every rep seriously.

“You have to run with a purpose, especially here. It means a lot to me and I want them to know it means a lot to me. So I’m going to go out there and every step I take it’s for a reason.”