Top 50 Falcons: No. 32, Terance Mathis

Terance Mathis, Atlanta Falcons
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Top 50 Falcons: No. 32, Terance Mathis
Terance Mathis, Atlanta Falcons

Terance Mathis, who played high school football in DeKalb County, joined the Falcons as a free agent in 1994. (Andy Lyons /Allsport)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 32 is wide receiver Terance Mathis.

Years played for Falcons: Drafted out of New Mexico by the New York Jets in the 1990 NFL Draft, the sixth round pick and 140th overall selection, Terance Mathis, spent four years in the Big Apple before really making a name for himself in Atlanta from 1994-2001. A local product, Mathis attended Redan High School in Stone Mountain before starring as a Lobo. He played both football and basketball and in 1989, he became New Mexico’s first consensus All-American after setting a Division I record for most receiving yards. He also became the first player to have more than 250 receptions, 4,000 receiving yards, and 6,000 yards total.

Jersey No.: 81

His impact on the team: In 1994, Mathis signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons. That season, he set a club record by catching 111 passes, becoming the eighth player in the history of the NFL to exceed the 100-catch mark in one season. Mathis played on two playoff teams during his eight seasons in Atlanta; the 1995 team that went 9-7 and lost in the wild card round to Green Bay and the 1998 Falcons who finished 14-2 and lost in the Super Bowl. In ’98 Mathis ranked second on the team in receiving yards with 1,136 behind Tony Martin’s 1,181. The most memorable catch and most important of his career came in the NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings when he caught a 16-yard touchdown with 57 seconds remaining to force overtime. Mathis held nearly every receiving record with the franchise (573 receptions, 7,349 yards, 57 touchdowns) before current Falcon Roddy White shattered them. Mathis was selected as the Atlanta Falcons’ “Man of the Year” in 1998 for his accomplishments on and off the field. In 1996, he founded the Terance Loves Children Foundation, now known as the Terance Mathis Foundation.

Terance Mathis, Atlanta Falcons, nfc championship game

Terance Mathis rolls into the end zone ahead of Minnesota’s Robert Griffith with 57 seconds remaining to force overtime in the 1998 NFC Championship game . (AJC File)

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 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 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.”

Where he is now: Mathis, 48, has been married to wife, Arnedia, for 18 years and lives in Suwanee. They have a daughter (Terae) and son (Terance Jr.).

The countdown to the Top 50 players in Falcons history runs through the end of the season.

Top 50 Falcons Countdown

50: Chuck Smith
49: Michael Haynes
48: Jonathan Babineaux
47: John Zook
46: Ken Reaves
45: Lynn Cain
44: Justin Blalock
43: Bobby Butler
42: Tim Mazzetti
41: Buddy Curry
40: Scott Case
39: Jeff Merrow
38: Elbert Shelley
37: Matt Bryant
36: Alge Crumpler
35: Michael Turner
34: Ray Buchanan
33: Chris Hinton
32: Terance Mathis


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