WCBE-FM (COLUMBUS, OHIO) -- Mathis was better than pretty good in music and athletics. He set the high-jump record while attending college at San Francisco State. Mathis also competed against future NBA star Bill Russell, and the two were listed as the top high jumpers in the Bay Area at the time. In 1955, Mathis also landed a job singing on the weekends at a local club, where a Columbia Records executive would see him perform. Mathis soon faced a decision that would shape his life.
"I had an opportunity to go to the Olympic trials as a high jumper," Mathis said. "During the same week, I got an opportunity to go to New York and make my first recording. It was a dramatic time for me as a young person. My dad was my best pal and a singer. We talked it over and agreed that I should forego my high-jumping escapades and go to New York and make my first recordings. Having my dad with me at that early age was really the biggest plus as far as I was concerned being so very young.”