Atlanta Football legend teaches teens about success

Hard work, high goals important

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ROSWELL, Ga. – For the students of Roswell High School, Jan. 23 offered them a chance to meet an NFL great and learn something about succeeding in life.

Former Falcon football player Terance Mathis spoke to the Roswell Rotary and the students of the Leadership 2020 program. Mathis played for the University of New Mexico, New York Jets and the Atlanta Falcons.

“I don’t have the keys to success, but I do have some things I know work,” the 46-year-old Mathis said. “We all want to be great, but what does it take to be great? Hard work. There is no easy way.”

He told the audience that ever since he was a small child he always wanted to play football. However his coaches kept telling him he was too small or too slow to play football.

“I had to prove to them and everyone that I can play,” he said.

And that he did. After a stand-out career at Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Mathis played college ball at New Mexico where he was a consensus All-American.

He was drafted by the Jets, but in three seasons he only started three games. Clearly feeling unappreciated, he became a free agent and signed with the Falcons in 1994, where he promptly caught a record-breaking 111 passes (only the eighth pro at that time to catch more than 100 passes in a season) and was invited to the Pro Bowl.

He had a 12-year career in the NFL, but his most productive years were spent as a Falcon.

He was a member of the only Falcons Super Bowl team. He holds Falcons career records in touchdown receptions (57) and second most receiving yards (7,349).

After his football career, Mathis was a college coach before becoming involved in NASCAR sports. Today, he is vice president of marketing for Leavine Family Racing as well as a motivational speaker.

“You’ve got to be the best professional you can be. Be a leader, not a follower,” he said.

It’s a lesson that applied equally as much to the business people in the room as the students.

“Set goals so high that even if you fall short, you will be among stars.”

The Roswell Rotary meets every Thursday at noon at Roswell Area Park.