Detroit, Michigan born Terance Mathis made his mark on the gridiron at Redan high school in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
The multi sport athlete attended the University of New Mexico, playing both baseball and basketball basketball for the Lobos.
The do it all wide receiver was drafted by the New York Jets in the 6th round of the 1990 NFL Draft. He was a key component to the Jets special teams plans as he spent four seasons as the teams go-to return man.
In 1994, Mathis signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an unrestricted free agent. During his time in Atlanta he blossomed into one of the better receivers in all of football. By the end of his time with the Falcons, he ranked first in team annals in receptions, receiving yards and ranked high in every other offensive receiving category. He currently stands in third place in Falcons history but behind Julio Jones and Roddy White in most major categories.
Mathis, a 1994 Pro Bowler and 1994 2nd Team All-Pro, was selected as the Atlanta Falcons Man of the Year in 1998.
In 2005, he formed his own NASCAR team called Victory Motorsports. After a number of successful years on the circuit, he was named vice president of marketing for part time Sprint Cup Series team Leavine Family Racing.
He also spent time as the offensive coordinator at Savannah State University and as the head football coach at Pine Crest Academy in Cumming, Georgia.
In this interview with SC Daily, Mathis talks about seeing his rookie card for the first time, his his sweet man cave and jersey swaps he missed out on.
Tony Reid-Whether it happened at Redan High School, the University New Mexico or when you made it to the NFL with the Jets, do you remember the first time you were asked for an autograph?
Terance Mathis–It may have been in college. I was a freshman and after the games you go up and move around and interact and all of the kids would come down with balls and stuff and ask for your autograph. It was terrible. I didn’t write an autograph. I just spelled my name out. I said right then that I have to learn how to sign my autograph, so I started practicing. It was so surreal because of the fact that growing up, I didn’t meet a professional athlete until I became a professional athlete. It was one of those things, the way we grew up we didn’t have access to a lot of athletes. I remember the first autograph I received. It was Billy “White Shoes” Johnson. I was a junior in high school. Here’s the thing, me and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson are good friends today.
TR–Your rookie card is found in the 1990 Topps Traded set. You are pictured in your New York Jets uniform. Do you remember seeing yourself on a card for the first time?
TM-It was that card. When I saw it I went crazy. As a kid, that is what we did. We would get the 25 cent packs of bubblegum cards. We would chew the gum and keep the cards. Oh my God, I remember all the cards I had. From Terry Bradshaw to O.J. Simpson to Walter Payton. I said one day I would have my own card. When I first saw it I couldn’t believe it. I still have that card to this day. It’s just amazing.
TR– You have appeared on over 900 different cards. Did you hold on to many of your own cards or do you have a collection today?
TM-Wait a minute, go back and say what you just said. Oh, my God. 900 cards? That is incredible. I do have a lot of the cards they sent me. I have them in a box in a storage room. I have some around the house, too. It’s funny because when my son was in grade school he would bring cards to me and ask me to sign them. Of course I signed them. Well, he was taking them to school and giving them to the kids. I was like, OK. He was giving them to the kids in his class and I later became a high school coach. I ended up coaching one of the kids in his class and he brought the card to me and said that my son had brought that to him when they were in the fifth grade. That was pretty cool.
TM– I do. One of the things I always told myself and my wife is that when you walk into our house you would never know I played football or not. There is nothing in the main house or the common areas of the house were you would see that. Not even in the bedrooms. Now, when you go down the steps to the basement, I fool you a bit because I have art on the walls then all of a sudden the first thing you see is a Muhammad Ali autographed photo, then you just start seeing jerseys and pictures and all of that stuff. When somebody comes over and I take them through the basement they go ‘Are you?’ Yes I am. (Laughs) I have so much but I didn’t put it all up. I have one wall that is still empty that I am going to put a lot of different things up on it. I try to make it clean and neat. I am still missing a few things from moving over the years. I am missing a lot of stuff or you just lose things. I am disappointed in that. It either got lost in the move or the movers took it! How about that? (Laughs)
TR–The post-game jersey swap has become a new tradition in all pro sports. If you could go back to your playing days and stop anyone after a game and do a swap, who are you picking and why?
TM-I did at one time. We played the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994 and I swapped with Irving Fryar. I have that jersey hanging up in my basement. If I would have to do it all over again, I would get Jerry Rice’s jersey. I would also get Michael Irvin’s jersey. Barry Sanders is another one I would want. There aren’t too many guys who I would swap with. There are probably other guys but those are the ones off the top of my head.
Read our Card Back Q&A with Terance Mathis here.