KPIX-CHANNEL 5 (SAN FRANCISCO) -- Mathis was also a star athlete at George Washington High School and San Francisco State University. He broke a high jump record held by college friend and future NBA great Bill Russell. SFSU would later name its annual track meet after Mathis.
But instead of trying out for the Olympics, Mathis signed with Columbia Records.
Has he ever wondered what it would have been like going to the Olympics as an athlete?
“I did salivate a little bit once in a while and thought about what it would be like to not only sing but hold a high jump record in Italy for instance,” he laughed.