What he did: So how did a quarterback from Redan High School in Stone Mountain become the University of New Mexico's first unanimous All-American and then go on the be a star receiver with his hometown Falcons?
“It’s a pretty good story,’’ he said.
He is Terance Mathis, one of the greatest receivers to ever come from metro Atlanta.
Mathis, who was born in Detroit, was a star at Redan in the 1980s when DeKalb County was still one of the state’s dominant forces in football. He came from a high school that former Georgia and Chicago Bears kicker Kevin Butler had helped put on the map a few years earlier.
Mathis was Redan’s quarterback, his most memorable moment coming during his junior year (1983) when he threw a Hail Mary pass with time running out to beat rival Peachtree and all-state quarterback Todd Rampley, who went on to play at Georgia Tech.
Dave Hunter, who won a state championship at Brookwood, was Peachtree’s head coach at the time and said, “Terance was one of the best athletes that we every played against. I remember that pass though. He just threw it up, and their receiver went up over three of our players and caught it and fell on the goal line.’’
That season, the Raiders clinched a spot in the state playoffs and beat Peachtree again before losing to a tough Southwest DeKalb team in the region finals. As a senior, Mathis led Redan to an 8-2 record and appeared to be headed to Georgia Southern to eventually replace the legendary option quarterback Tracy Ham.
But Eagles offensive coordinator Ben Griffith left for New Mexico and Mathis followed him.
In Albuquerque, Mathis moved to receiver and, at 5-foot-10 and 177 pounds, became one of the more productive players in the country, catching 263 passes for 4,254 yards and 36 touchdowns in four seasons. He also ran up 1,993 return yards and scored three touchdowns, being named to the All-American team in 1989, when he caught 88 passes for 1,315 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Mathis expected to go high in the 1990 draft but fell to the Jets in the sixth round, the 160th overall pick and 18th receiver chosen.
In New York as a rookie, he was used mainly as a kick returner and never caught more than 28 passes in four seasons with the Jets.
In 1994 as an unrestricted free agent, he signed with the Falcons and their high-powered offense under coach June Jones. In his first season, he caught 111 passes, becoming the eighth player in NFL history at the time to pass the 100-catch mark. His 1,342 receiving yards ranked second in franchise history at the time. He made the Pro Bowl that year, along with Cris Carter, Michael Irvin, and Jerry Rice.
He played eight seasons for the Falcons, including the 1998 Super Bowl season, when he caught 64 passes for 1,136 years and an incredible 17.8 yards per catch average.
His biggest two catches that season came in the NFC Championship game against Minnesota, when he caught two touchdowns, the second one putting the game in overtime. The Falcons won it on a Morten Andersen field goal. He also caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl against Denver. Before he was finished playing for the Falcons, he caught 573 passes for 7,349 yards and 57 touchdowns, second to Roddy White in franchise history in each category.
Mathis was released after the 2001 season and finished his career after one season in Pittsburgh, a team that just missed making the AFC Championship game. Retired at age 34, he has since dabbled in NASCAR as a marketer and even tried to form his own racing team, which fell though. He also was the offensive coordinator at Savannah State in 2011.
Where he lives: Mathis, 40, has been married to wife, Arnedia, for 18 years and lives in Suwanee. They have a daughter (Terae) and son (Terance Jr.).
What he does now: Mathis is professional trainer, working with players from the NFL level down to youth ball. He also said he stays in top physical shape and wants to be a head coach some day.
On playing at Redan: "That was when football was king in DeKalb. And I was all ready to head down to Georgia Southern, but my recruiting coach left for New Mexico, and it was a chance to play Division I. When I got there as a freshman, I was the third quarterback, but they wanted to get me on the field, so they moved me to receiver. I really learned how to play football there.''
On draft day: "It was a disaster. I had a draft party and everything and back then, it was about what (ESPN's) Mel Kiper said about you, and he said something and I dropped in the draft. The Jets picked me and I went into New York with a chip on my shoulder. The one thing I did learn in New York was you better grow up and be able to perform because the fans and the media are going to rip you apart if you don't. I certainly became a professional there. The one thing I remember about the Jets is Pete Carroll was our defensive coordinator.''
On signing with the Falcons: "Back then you had total free agency. There were no restrictions. I visited a couple of teams and was living in Albuquerque during the offseason and got a call from Atlanta. I remember visiting and going in the locker room where I had visited when I was a junior in high school. It gave me chills. I remember June Jones telling me all I had to do was go out there and catch 10 passes. I remember leaving that day and calling my agent and telling him to take whatever they offer because I wanted to come home.''
On his big first season in Atlanta: "I finally got the opportunity to showcase my talents. I had become frustrated with the Jets. I remember going to the Pro Bowl that first year and Jerry Rice was there and so was Cris Carter and Michael Irvin. I was there with players that are now in the Hall of Fame.''
On the Super Bowl season in 1998: "We knew we had a good team as we were coming off a season where we won six of our last eight games and added some really good pieces. We reeled off 11 in a row after we lost in New York (Jets). I think if they would have kept that team together the next year, we would have had a chance to go back to the Super Bowl.''
On his catch to put the NFC Championship game in overtime: "We had run the same play before where both Tim Dwight and I ran post routes. I crossed the safety's face and Chris (Chandler) threw a dart and the rest is history.''
On his TD catch in the Super Bowl: "It was meaningless because the game was over by then, but I went down to my ankles to catch the ball and still have that photo in my basement. The thing about going to the Super Bowl is a lot of players in the Hall of Fame never played in a Super Bowl. So it is a very special memory.''
On his last game with the Falcons in 2001: "I remember sitting in the locker room with tears in my eyes because I knew the handwriting was on the wall and they were not going to bring me back. I remember Michael Vick coming up to me and asking me if I was OK.''
On the current Falcons team: "Once they hired Dan Quinn, I knew it was going to be different. They play with a sense of urgency and play hard. Also, what I like is everybody on that team, no matter how much or little they make, is being held accountable. I can also tell they are having a good time out there.''
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Credit: Channel 2 Action News