'NCIS': Mark Harmon Had Standout Football Career Before Reaching Stardom

Mark Harmon is one of the biggest stars on TV after appearing in more than 400 episodes of NCIS and Chicago Hope. Before making his name in Hollywood, however, Harmon shined in a different part of Los Angeles. He was a star quarterback for the UCLA Bruins and orchestrated a stunning rise to success.

According to the National Football Foundation, Harmon had football in his genes. He is the son of Heisman Trophy-winning halfback Tom Harmon. He was born and raised in Southern California and ultimately attended The Harvard School, which became Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles. Harmon primarily played running back and safety, only appearing in four games as a quarterback. However, he missed his senior season of varsity football after breaking his elbow.

The future star actor was not recruited out of high school, so he headed to Pierce Junior College. He suited up as quarterback and led the team to a 7-2 record in 1971, earning All-America honors in the process. This performance on the field led to several high-profile programs recruiting Harmon to lead them to greatness. The list of suitors included Oklahoma and head coach Barry Switzer.

Harmon ultimately opted to remain in Southern California and joined the Bruins. He became the quarterback after a 2-7-1 season and led the Pac-8 team to consecutive second-place finishes in the conference. Harmon also started his career by leading the Bruins to an upset victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the team that had won two consecutive national championships.

The future actor excelled as both a runner and passer during his time with UCLA. However, he gained more yards on the ground than through the air. He registered 1,504 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns during his two-year career. These statistics outweigh the 845 yards passing and 9 touchdowns.


Harmon was not the only member of the offense finding success during his stint as the starting quarterback. He also partnered with his running backs, Kermit Johnson and James McAlister. The trio helped UCLA set school records for total yards gained (4,403), average yards per game (400) and rushing touchdowns (56).

The Bruins did not play in Bowl games during Harmon's career but still achieved winning records. The team went 8-3 in 1972 and 9-2 in 1973. He ultimately graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Communications in 1974 after carrying a 3.45 GPA. He later accepted the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Award during the NFF Annual Awards Dinner in New York City.