Ex-Lobo Mathis recalls his Super Bowl moments - Albuquerque Journal

Ex-Lobo Mathis recalls his Super Bowl moments

 Terance Mathis hands his daughter, Terae, 18 months, in 2000. Terae was a newborn in 1999 when Mathis, a former New Mexico Lobo, played in the Super Bowl for the Atlanta Falcons. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
Terance Mathis hands his daughter, Terae, 18 months, in 2000. Terae was a newborn in 1999 when Mathis, a former New Mexico Lobo, played in the Super Bowl for the Atlanta Falcons. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

Terance Mathis knew the game was different. It was not something he could admit beforehand, but when it was over, he understood it was unlike anything he would experience.

It was Jan. 31, 1999, Miami. It was the 33rd edition of an event called the Super Bowl, and Mathis and his Atlanta Falcons had clawed an invitation after a 14-2 regular season and playoff wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings.

Dan Reeves was his coach. Chris Chandler was his quarterback. The Denver Broncos provided the opposition.

Mathis, who had done his collegiate work at the University of New Mexico, was in his fifth season with the Falcons and would eventually become the team’s all-time receptions leader. (He’s now No. 2 behind Roddy White.)

But on that January day, he was a young man in awe.

“The hype was incredible,” Mathis said by phone Wednesday from Atlanta after playing a round of golf. “The celebrities, the entertainers, the TV coverage. Everybody pulling on you. Everybody gets excited about the Super Bowl.

“But there’s more excitement playing in it. You can’t imagine what goes on. You’re trying to keep the emotions inside. You hear the cliché that it’s another game. You say that to the media, you say it to each other. But when that game starts, you know what game you’re playing in. You know it is the only sporting event going on in the world.”

Mathis handled the hype by spending as much time as he could with family.

“My wife and I just had a newborn baby, two weeks old,” Mathis said. “My mother, grandmother came down. I had a whole lot of family in. Most of my free time was with my family. The Saturday before, we had a walk-through, then I took the family down to South Beach and had breakfast.”

The silence was broken on game day.

“We got introduced, and you hear your name, and all of a sudden, it’s deafening,” he said. “You run out of that tunnel and it’s an amazing feeling. Just amazing.”

He said the game was a blur.

“I remember the kickoff and the ticker-tape afterward,” he said.

Of course, the Falcons lost 34-19. But Mathis caught seven passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. He does remember the touchdown — a shoe-string catch he made on a slant route in the end zone from 3 yards out. There were only two minutes left and the game was long decided.

He caught the ball, rolled over, looked up, saw the ref throw his hands in the air and he let out a sigh.

“It was bittersweet,” Mathis said. “It didn’t matter. Still, I caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl.”

He has a photo of it in his basement.

On Sunday, he will cheer the Falcons from his Atlanta home. He texts Falcons coach Dan Quinn once or twice a week.

“I encourage him, let him know I’m rooting for him,” said Mathis, who grew up in Stone Mountain, Ga. “I want this team to win because this city deserves it. It deserves a championship.”

Mathis, 49, played 13 seasons in the NFL and was a Pro Bowler. But there was nothing comparable to that day in Miami in 1999.

“It’s hard to explain,” he said of the experience. “It’s like you’re in a bubble. You know the significance of it. You know you’re playing a game you’ve wanted to play in since you were 5 or 6 years old. Every play counts. It was phenomenal.”

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