FOXBORO, Mass. — Of the 30 New England Patriots players who will be experiencing the Super Bowl stage for the first time next Sunday, none have waited longer for the opportunity than Chris Long.

A 31-year-old defensive end drafted second overall in 2008, Long is in his first season with the Patriots after eight years with the then-St. Louis Rams, who never even reached the postseason while he played there.

The Rams averaged 4.6 wins per season during Long’s tenure with the club. This season, the Patriots won an NFL-best 14 regular-season games, then breezed past the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs by a combined score of 70-33.

It was exactly what the NFL veteran hoped for when he signed a one-year, $2.38 million contract with New England last offseason.

“It’s the whole reason I came here,” Long said Friday. “Everybody wants to win — that’s the bottom line. When you’re making a decision as an older player (on) where you want to be, you want to be in situations like this, with opportunities like this. We’ve earned the opportunity, and whatever we do with it, that’s up to us.”

Long typically is stoic when speaking with reporters, but he’s appeared noticeably more upbeat during the latter stages of the Patriots’ latest Super Bowl run. He waxed poetic about his love for confetti after the AFC Championship Game, and on Friday, he struggled to put into words his excitement level ahead of Super Bowl LI.

“It’s hard to say,” Long said. “Playing in the AFC Championship was, on a scale of 1 to 10, a 12 for me. So, I’m already in the extra numbers. I (didn’t) know that I could get a Super Bowl, AFC Championship Game, a playoff game. It’s all far beyond anything I’ve done before. I feel like I’ll be all right.”

Long’s first Super Bowl will pit the NFL’s stingiest defense against an Atlanta Falcons offense that racked up 540 points during the regular season, tops in the league and tied with the 2000 Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” for seventh-most all time.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images