Bolden Realizes His Dream of Playing in the Super Bowl
Jan. 30, 2015
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. — From undrafted free agent to Super Bowl participant, it’s been a wild ride for former Ole Miss running back and current New England Patriot Brandon Bolden.
After appearances in the AFC Championship in each of his first two seasons with the Patriots, Bolden will make his first appearance in the Super Bowl on Sunday (5:30 p.m. CT, NBC) against the Seattle Seahawks, becoming the 23rd different former Rebel to play in the big game.
“When you’re a little kid and you start playing football, your dream is to always make it to the Super Bowl,” Bolden said. “Every waking moment, you want to be in the NFL. I was blessed and fortunate to make it to the NFL and then make it to the Super Bowl.”
Bolden starred for Ole Miss from 2008-11, helping the Rebels to back-to-back Cotton Bowl victories in 2009 and 2010 and finishing his career ranked second in school history in both total touchdowns scored (33) and rushing touchdowns (27), third in all-purpose yards (3,681) and fourth in rushing yards (2,604).
He participated in the NFL Scouting Combine but went undrafted, before signing with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent.
“I guess I was like everyone, thinking I was going to be drafted, and then I wasn’t,” Bolden said. “It was a motivating factor that 31 teams skipped out on me. One team gave me a chance, so 31 teams had to pay for it. That’s been the mindset since I have been in the league, and I’m keeping that going.”
A three-year veteran with the Patriots, Bolden appeared in all 18 games this season, starting two, sharing carries in a crowded backfield and starring on the team’s special teams units. Bolden, who made the team in 2012, was scheduled for restricted free agency after the season, before recently signing a two-year extension, through 2016.
“My teammates do a great job,” Bolden said. “It’s been a learning process. Coming into this organization, having these guys who have been to the Super Bowl and the playoffs for these many years, you learn so much from them. A lot of guys on this team played in those past Super Bowls, so it’s great to get them back to the Super Bowl.”
Through 18 games, Bolden has rushed 31 times for 96 yards, fifth on the team, and a touchdown, having rushed 55 times for 271 yards and three touchdowns in 2013 and rushed 56 times for 274 yards and two touchdowns in 2012.
Bolden has made a living on special teams, a role he embraced even as a regular starter during his time at Ole Miss. Some key plays for him this season include a blocked punt in Week 14 against San Diego and a massive block on a punt return in the AFC Championship game against Indianapolis.
“He's been a real productive player for us in the kicking game,” said New England Patriots Bill Belichick in a media opportunity on Dec. 23, 2014. “His versatility at that position is hard to find. He's a smart guy. He does a lot of things without taking a lot of reps, which there's a lot to be said for that, too.
“You can't give everybody every play at that position. He does a great job of not taking all the plays, but always being prepared and knowing what to do when we call on him, which when you get into pass protection and third down sub pickups and things like that, that's not easy.”
More than three years removed from his Senior Day, Bolden remains close to the Ole Miss football program, staying in contact with current and former players and coaches, such as his position coach, Derrick Nix, who recently completed his seventh year as Ole Miss’ running backs coach.
“It’s great to sit back and see a guy you recruited in high school and go through his four years of college have success like he has,” Nix said. “Playing on Sundays is every kid’s dream, and seeing him go out there and fulfill that dream, it brings joy to my heart to see him out there. And for the guys I coach every day, he’s an example of a guy who went through our program and has had success playing on Sundays, and now he’s playing in a Super Bowl.”
One of 21 former Rebels currently on NFL rosters, Bolden will carry the flag for the Ole Miss football program when he suits up for the Patriots on Sunday against the Seahawks.
“When we go out and recruit and try to get other running backs, it shows that we have had guys come through our program recently and then have success,” Nix said. “If they come to Ole Miss, they can reach their dreams and play in the NFL. It shows them they can play at the highest level, not only to get into the league, but to have a chance to play on the biggest stage.”
Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller.
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