TIMES LEADER (WILKES-BARRE, PENNSYLVANIA) -- “I had wonderful relationships with all my teachers. They were my big heroes. I loved the fact that I was learning something,” he said, recalling the year and a half he spent at San Francisco State University. “I think I wanted to be a teacher; I didn’t know what I wanted to teach.”
A superb athlete, Mathis set a collegiate high jump record that was only 2 inches short of the Olympic record at the time — and he had a chance to tryout for the 1956 Olympic team that would head to Melbourne, Australia. But he turned that down in favor of keeping an appointment in New York City, where he was scheduled to record some songs.
“It was something I enjoyed thinking about, but it was a fantasy,” he said of his chance at the Olympics. “I would have had to make the grade athletically. The reality was, music overshadowed everything in my life from the time I was 12 or 13. That is the thing that consumes me.”