While he’s mostly known for his work in television and film, actor Mark Harmon was once the starting quarterback for a major college football program.
Mark Harmon became a household name for playing the lead role of Leroy Jethro Gibbs in “NCIS,” a law enforcement drama series. His exploits on camera are many and his accomplishments rank high on the Hollywood achievement list. His acting career spans several decades and dates back to the early 1970s. In the 1990s, he starred in the hit television series “West Wing” as secret service agent Simon Donovan. He received an Emmy Award Nomination in 2002 for his role on the show. He has been playing Gibbs on “NCIS” since 2003, making him one of the most well-known television characters in history.
But before he was a famous actor, Mark Harmon was a star quarterback at collegiate football powerhouse UCLA. With a rocket arm and plenty of mobility, Harmon made a name for himself on the gridiron. Check out the arm strength on this touchdown pass against the rival Nebraska Cornhuskers.
As you can see from this video, Mark Harmon had plenty of athletic ability. The play shown above was one of the major highlights of Harmon’s collegiate football career. It came in 1972’s stunning upset that saw UCLA take down the two-time defending national champions. The Bruins were 18-point underdogs heading into the matchup against the number one ranked Cornhuskers. Harmon’s poise under pressure and ability to uncork the long ball were a big reason why they pulled out the victory. The game would go down as one of the top upsets in college football with UCLA winning on a late field go 20-17.
Mark Harmon’s Football Journey
Mark Harmon’s path to the collegiate football field had its share of ups and downs over the years. After graduating from Harvard-Westlake High School, Pierce College in Los Angeles, earning an Associates Degree. He chose to attend UCLA over a scholarship from another college football powerhouse, the Oklahoma Sooners.
Heading into the 1972 season, Mark Harmon took over the starting quarterback role for the Bruins. The upset win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers was his first game as starting quarterback for UCLA. He would start at the position for the 1972 and 1973 seasons. During his two-year run with the team, Harmon and the Bruins would compile a respectable 17-5 record overall.
While he wasn’t as accomplished in football as he is now in acting, Mark Harmon received acclaim for his career. In his senior year at UCLA, he received the National Football Foundation Award for overall excellence. He was also inducted into the Pierce College Athletic Hall of Fame in the school’s inaugural class.
After his football career came to an end, Mark Harmon considered careers in law and advertising. He would quickly make the switch to acting and fans of “NCIS” are thankful he did.