SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Gary Kubiak and John Elway were roommates the first time they experienced the Super Bowl in 1987 and are back as coach and general manager in Super Bowl 50.
"It's been extremely special," Kubiak said Thursday at the Santa Clara Marriott. "We started as kids being players together. I watched John as a franchise player, obviously I was a background player as far as that's concerned. Back in those days, you roomed together and all those things. Guys get their own room now. I came back and had to coach him.
"It was great for me as a young coach. He challenged me to be on top of my stuff. It's been many, many years, we're in our 50s now. Life has changed a little bit but he hasn't changed and hopefully I haven't changed."
Kubiak and Elway became teammates in 1983 with the Broncos.
"Dan (Reeves) picked me in the eighth round ... and there's not an eighth round anymore," Kubiak quipped.
Reeves only drafted Kubiak, with whom he remains close friends, because Craig Morton was leaving the team and the Broncos needed a quarterback. Soon after, they had two.
Elway was the No. 1 overall pick, who forced his way out of Baltimore and arrived at the Air Force Academy facility for the team's first minicamp, where he met Kubiak. Elway was almost instantly anointed a savior for the Broncos, but to Kubiak he was John.
Kubiak retired after the AFC title game in 1992, a Broncos loss at Buffalo, where he played in the fourth quarter because Elway was injured and completed 11 of 12 passes.
He went to San Francisco from Texas A&M to coach under Mike Shanahan, and then came with him to Denver in 1995 at age 34. He was offensive coordinator of the Broncos' two Super Bowl wins that preceded Elway's retirement.
Kubiak was 0-3 with the Broncos in the Super Bowl as a player but won three in a row as an assistant coach - with the 49ers in 1994 and the two with Denver in 1997 and '98.
Kubiak was hired a year ago to replace John Fox, a move that Elway said put the team over the hump in the franchise's eighth Super Bowl appearance. Elway wanted more toughness and because of his longstanding relationship with Kubiak, felt he was the right leader.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said Thursday he believes the Broncos would be in the Super Bowl even if Elway hadn't fired Fox.
"I don't get into comparisons - it's easy to do. I was grateful to play for coach (John) Fox," Manning said. "Coming off a year that wasn't a lot of fun, 2011, I had more neck surgeries than snaps that year. John Fox was a big reason I came to Denver. I've enjoyed playing for coach Kubiak. He has led us into this position."
Kubiak and Elway raised their kids together because they are of a like age. Win or lose, they've always remained tight away from the field. Kubiak said the one trait that stands out with Elway is the same on the verge of senior citizenship as it was in his 20s.
"His competitive nature," Kubiak said. "His competitive spirits flow. I watch him in the draft room, watch him in free agency. He's a tremendous sounding board. There's not a thing in football that John Elway hasn't been through."
Manning is playing in his fourth Super Bowl, and at 39 will be the oldest starter ever in the event. Elway, who won titles in his final two seasons and retired a back-to-back world champion, thinks Manning has written his career legacy even if he would lose Sunday and fall to 1-3 in Super Bowls.
"His legacy is set no matter what," Elway said. "All he can do is add to his legacy. It'd be a tremendous add and he's going to go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game no matter what and if we can win this, all that's going to do is add to his legacy."
NOTES: Broncos players welcome their families to the Santa Clara area on Thursday. Coach Gary Kubiak corrected himself Thursday when he called the logistical arrangements and arrival tracking of spouses, children and parents a distraction. He met with team captains and stressed focus before media sessions began at 8:30 a.m. local time. "I've been happy with how they handled things and expect that to continue." ... QB Peyton Manning said he has altered his pregame routine since a foot injury forced him to miss six starts. "I'll go out before the game and throw," said Manning, who used to save his bullets for game time. "I'll take (receiver) Jordan Sunshine Taylor out with me, and (the Broncos equipment managers) will throw some routes, just to get loose." ... Rapper Snoop Dogg represented the "Rich Eisen Show" to ask Manning a question during the 15-minute press conference Thursday: "Can I get a 50 percent discount on Papa John's when I'm in Colorado?"