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Mathis is on board with NFL voting initiative

Robert Portnoy, left, interviews former Lobo and NFL wide receiver Terance Mathis during a UNM football game on Sept. 9, 2017. Mathis was inducted into the school’s ring of honor that night. He now is a high school coach in Georgia and is part of an initiative by the NFL to get out the vote. (Courtesy of Robert Portnoy)

Terance Mathis has worn Redan High School navy and silver, New Mexico Lobos cherry and silver, New York Jets green and white, Atlanta Falcons red and black, Pittsburgh Steelers black and gold.

As for that red/blue thing, the former UNM All-America wide receiver says, the choice is up to the individual.

But, he says, once the choice is made, act on it.

Vote.

“There were 100 million voting-eligible Americans that did not vote in 2016,” Mathis said this week in a phone interview from his home in Georgia. “It’s not acceptable.

“It’s a right that so many, so many in the history of this nation fought for, and (if we don’t vote) we won’t honor those that died, took beatings, got put in jail, all those things. And we will honor them by going out and voting.”

Mathis played in the NFL from 1990-2002, leaving the game with 689 receptions for 8,809 yards and 63 touchdowns. He earned Pro Bowl honors with Atlanta in 1994 and caught a touchdown pass for the Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII.

When he received an email from the NFL, asking him if he’d be interested in aligning himself with a new league initiative called NFL Votes, “I said, sure. This the perfect time to talk about this.”

Mathis identifies as a Democrat, but would not and has not hesitated to vote for Republicans when he felt a particular candidate was better qualified and offered more solutions.

“I voted for (George W.) Bush back in the day,” he said. “… I don’t agree with some of the things Democrats propose, and I don’t agree with some of the things Republicans propose.

“You’ve got to vote for that person that gives not only your family a chance of being prosperous, successful, healthy, all those things, but other families also.”

Mathis said he has no interest in politics per se and has never actively campaigned for any candidate.

Asked if he had any political aspirations of his own, he said, laughing, “No, not at all. It’s a cruel, cruel world in the political game.”

Born in Detroit, Mathis grew up in Georgia and played quarterback and defensive back for Redan High in Stone Mountain.

In four years at UNM, Mathis made 263 receptions, good for 4,254 yards and 36 touchdowns. Those figures remain school records, far and away, almost two decades after he played his last game as a Lobo. He was named an All-American as a senior in 1989.

Since retiring from the NFL, Mathis worked for two years as the offensive coordinator at Savannah (Georgia) State and for three years as the head coach at Pinecrest Academy in Cumming, Georgia. He’s now an assistant coach at Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell, Georgia. He’s done marketing for a NASCAR team and worked as a sports instructor.

His ultimate goal, he said, is to become a college head coach.

Mathis, 53, resigned as Pinecrest head coach in May after compiling a 7-25 record – beset by roster shortages – over three seasons. Shortly after he left, the school announced it would play eight-man football this season.

Blessed Trinity, which went 14-1 last season and won the Georgia Class AAAA state title, was to have opened its season on Sept. 4 but was forced to cancel when one of its players tested positive for COVID-19. The Titans are now scheduled to open on Sept. 18.

Football in 2020, Mathis believes, can serve as a laboratory for American society as a whole.

“If we can get through this college season, this NFL season, without any disruption,” he said, “I think you’re going to see Americans change the way they feel about being in crowds, attending events and all those things.”

One event Mathis doesn’t intend to miss, he said, is Election Day.

Red? Blue?

“It really doesn’t matter,” he said. “Blue or red, you’ve got to really, really sit down and pay attention to the issues of today, what you want to see tomorrow and what you want for your kids and grandkids – what type of society you want them to live in.

“That’s what it really comes down to.”

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