Terance Mathis, vice president of marketing for Leavine Family Racing, has more than just a passing interest in this year's Super Bowl, having played in the annual contest during a 13-year career in the NFL.
Although his Atlanta Falcons lost to the Denver Broncos and quarterback John Elway in Super Bowl XXXIII (played in 1999), Mathis, a wide receiver, did score on a 3-yard TD pass late in the fourth quarter.
While he played with three teams, the New York Jets, Atlanta and Pittsburgh Steelers, his best seasons came during an eight-year stint with the Falcons. He gained more than 1,000 yards four times with Atlanta, and was named to the 1994 Pro Bowl.
"Of course I'm still a football fan," Mathis said. "And I keep up with what's going on with the (Falcons) ? how they're doing. I don't go to ? see them play; I mostly watch them on TV.
"Every once in a while I send a message to (wide receiver) Roddy (White) and wish him luck or congratulate him on breaking my records."
Mathis isn't exactly new to NASCAR; for nearly eight years he has sought out ways to become involved in the sport. He's been part owner on at least one occasion and saw that fall apart for a number of reasons. "It got sticky," he said.
He's met with teams both large and small, "and some I just didn't feel right about," he said. But something kept drawing him back even when it seemed NASCAR was nothing more than a dead end.
"Three years ago I said I'm done. But every year I keep getting brought back closer and closer," Mathis said. "Then a good friend said 'I've got something you might like. You need to call this gentleman; see if there is any kind of synergy.'"
Mathis called, and spoke with Bob Leavine for the first time. Leavine had a team, cars, a driver in Scott Speed, crew chief Wally Rogers and a handful of crewmen. But most of all, Leavine's family-owned organization offered opportunity, potential and an atmosphere that Mathis said, "just felt right."
"Bob is one of those smiling assassins," he said. "He's lovable, he's polite, and he's genuine. But inside he's that guy that just wants to win. He's not going to say that, but you can tell. ? He knows you don't win every race. But if you go out and run well and to best of your ability, that's a win for us, a small win."
As Vice President of Marketing, Mathis says he hopes to bring stability and growth to the organization. His formed his own mobile marketing group following his retirement from the NFL, working with several record labels. He knows where NASCAR has been and says he has a good idea where it needs to go.
"We have to capture the urban community," he said. "There are more NASCAR fans in urban communities than you think ? more black Americans. But the question is, who do they root for? They don't have an allegiance to a team, maybe to a product or to a company but not to a team. And we know NASCAR fans are most loyal when it comes to products.
"So if we can present a product to them and we run successfully, that company will prosper from our visibility.
"I'm very competitive; I want to win. It's fun to go to the track and have relationships, build relationships. But at the end of the day it's about winning."
Mathis could have had an ownership role in the team, both he and Leavine said, but providing the opportunity to be involved from a marketing standpoint made the most sense and kept the operation of the organization simple.
"We could have gone and done that, without a doubt," Leavine said, "but however it was done really wasn't an issue. I think what Terance brings to the team will be tremendously beneficial to LFR."
Mathis said he isn't worried about who brings what to the table, only that everyone contributes to the best of their ability.
"Right off the bat I said, 'Look, I've been down this road before. This is how I operate, I don't want anything from you until I produce. That way if I don't produce and we part ways, there are no hard feelings,'" he said. "I've been sued in this business before but I keep coming back.
"I could have put a car on the track for one race, sure. But I said I would never do it unless it was done right.
"And Bob and his family are doing it right."
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- Terance Mathis
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