by Mike Magers
Born in Detroit, Michigan, former NFL player Terance Mathis grew up in Stone Mountain, Georgia and graduated from Redan High School in DeKalb County, where he played defensive back, halfback and finally quarterback for the Raiders. His highlights included connecting on a Hail Mary pass with time running out to defeat district rival Peachtree High in 1983. It was a quarterback’s dream play. Mathis just threw a long bomb and his receiver leapt over three defenders to make the catch and fall just over the goal line.
Mathis signed with the University of New Mexico where he became the school’s first unanimous All-American in 1989. He went on to have a solid career in the NFL, playing for the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburg Steelers.
He was attracted to University of New Mexico due to his coming to the attention of offensive coordinator Ben Griffith while Griffith was still serving in that capacity at Georgia Southern. Griffith had initially recruited Mathis as a quarterback. Terence once took a pitch out in an early UNM practice and streaked 60 yards to the end zone, helping the coaches to realize that he was too valuable an offensive threat to sit on the sidelines behind their two returning quarterbacks. Mathis found his niche at wide receiver and became the leading receiver in the Western Athletic Conference and the NCAA. He was such a versatile player that he would also be used at tight end and tailback. While at UNM Mathis set a Division 1 record for most receiving yards. He was also the first player to exceed 250 receptions, 4,000 receiving yards and 6,000 total yards. His record at UNM was 263 receptions for 4,256 yards, 36 touchdowns. His return yardage totaled 1,993 with three touchdowns.
Terence expected to go higher in the 1990 NFL draft but was taken by the New York Jets in the 6th round. He was the 140th player and the 18th receiver taken. He was scarcely used in his three seasons with the Jets and once he reached free agency, he signed with the Atlanta Falcons under head coach June Jones. At Atlanta he never looked back, being named to the Pro Bowl and playing on a Super Bowl team. He retired after completing 8 more seasons with the Falcons and one with the Steelers.
As a pro, Mathis appeared in 206 games, starting 130 of them. He had 689 receptions for 8,909 yards. He amassed 11,350 all purpose yards and scored 63 touchdowns. Two seasons he was in the top 10 receiving yards per game and top ten in rushing and receiving touchdowns.
His honors include being named to the UNM athletics Hall of Honor and the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. He now resides in the Atlanta area and heads up the Terance Mathis Foundation which he founded in 1996. The foundation is designed to serve the Atlanta community by distributing food and other items to the needy.
(Image credit: New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame)