SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Dan Reeves has barely merited a mention in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, his imprint on these Broncos an afterthought.
Maybe it's just too easy to forget that Reeves mentored every key architect of this season's Broncos, from general manager John Elway and coach Gary Kubiak on down.
Reeves led Denver to three Super Bowl appearances nearly three decades ago. And in a roundabout way, he influenced the way this edition of the team was built.
The bloodlines run deep, yet the patriarch is well outside of the current inner circle.
On Sunday, he'll turn on the TV at home in Atlanta and watch from afar as Denver faces the Panthers in Super Bowl 50, "cheering for the Broncos, without question," the 72-year-old Reeves said in a telephone interview. "I've got too many great friends there, so many people in that organization I think the world of."
Start with Elway, the quarterback for most of Reeves' Denver tenure from 1981-92, who says his efforts to build a No. 1 defense were inspired at least in part by his former coach.
Then there's Kubiak, Elway's backup back in the day. Rick Dennison, the offensive coordinator, was a linebacker for Reeves. Wade Phillips, the defensive coordinator, originally was brought to Denver for that job by Reeves in 1989, then replaced a fired Reeves as head coach in 1993.
Bill Kollar, the defensive line coach, was an assistant to Reeves with the Falcons. He also played for the Bucs (1977-81). And Joe DeCamillis, the special teams coordinator, began his NFL career working for Reeves with Denver in the 1980s, then later went with him to the New York Giants and Falcons. Taking Reeves' role as father figure even further? DeCamillis is his son-in-law.
"The one thing about Coach Reeves that you'll always get a feel for when you talk to him is how much he cares for his former players and his former coaches. He couldn't be happier for us," DeCamillis said. "He's got his fingerprints on a lot of the guys that are here, which is pretty neat."
Perhaps no one more than Elway, which might seem counterintuitive given their publicly complicated and sometimes contentious relationship, connected to Elway's desire for a more wide-open offense. Together they reached the 1987, 1988 and 1990 Super Bowls, coming up short each time.
"I learned from (Reeves) that you have to play great defense. He had a lot of great defensive teams, and that's where I get my instincts on the defensive side," Elway said. "That defense kept us in a lot of football games when I was young, because we weren't doing much offensively, until the chains came off late in the game and we were able to win some."
Elway later won titles in each of the last two seasons of his Hall of Fame career — the second one against Reeves' Falcons in 1998.
Keeping it real: Each of the more than 100 footballs that will be used in the Super Bowl will be "tagged" with a specially prepared synthetic DNA ink that leaves an invisible-to-the-naked-eye security mark to protect against possible counterfeiting.
The sideline pylons and the coin used for the game-opening toss will also be marked.
The league will use PSA/DNA Authentication Services of Santa Ana, Calif., to certify all footballs used in nearby Santa Clara.
Roomates square off: Two former college roommates at Ohio State will square off when Panthers WR Philly Brown and Broncos CB Bradley Roby meet Sunday.
"It will be fun," Brown said. "We've talked about it since college. We just didn't realize that it was going to happen so early in both of our careers, so that makes it even crazier. We still talk every day. I was with him two days ago. It's crazy to be playing against him."