‘NCIS’: Mark Harmon Once Named the ‘Best’ UCLA Players During His Playing Years

by Suzanne Halliburton

Mark Harmon, long before he ever thought about becoming a TV star, dominated the gridiron as a quarterback for his hometown UCLA Bruins.

Harmon, the star of NCIS, was a junior college transfer who played for UCLA in 1972-73. It was a terrific time to be a college football fan in LA. The Southern California Trojans were a football dynasty. And thanks to Harmon and his teammates, the upstart Bruins also were nationally relevant.

Mark Harmon, the son of a Heisman Trophy winner, still gets questions about his college football career. He appeared on the Rich Eisen show back in 2018 to talk NCIS and sports. Of course, Eisen asked Harmon about his UCLA career, specifically, who else was good?

Harmon told Eisen that 22 teammates played pro football. Eisen asked for names. So Mark Harmon ticked them off.

“Jimmy Allen, maybe? Kermit Johnson, James McAllister, those guys all had … Randy Cross. Those guys all had bigger pro careers than some others.”

Top Pro Who Played with Mark Harmon Was Randy Cross

Randy Cross was a freshman offensive lineman when Mark Harmon was the team’s quarterback. The San Francisco 49ers selected Cross in the second round of the 1976 draft. Cross played on three Super Bowl-winning teams with the 49ers and made All-Pro three times.

James McAlister, a running back, starred for both the football and track teams. In 1973, he posted the top mark in the world in the long jump. The day before the 1974 NFL draft, McAlister signed with the Southern California Sun, a franchise in the new World Football League. He eventually spent time in the NFL, playing for both Philadelphia and New England.

Kermit Johnson was another UCLA teammate Mark Harmon named. Coincidentally, Johnson also signed with the Sun in the WFL. He was a consensus All-American running back with the Bruins. After his one year in the WFL, Johnson joined the 49ers for two seasons.

Jimmy Allen was a star safety when Mark Harmon played for the Bruins. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Allen in the fourth round. And Allen ended up playing on two Super Bowl teams. The Steelers traded him to Detroit in 1978.

Mark Harmon maintained that he never wanted to play pro football. He has said that he wanted the experience of playing a college sport and he reached his goal with UCLA football.

He’ll always be known for helping to direct an upset of two-time defending national champion Nebraska. The Bruins won 20-17 thanks to a field goal with 22 seconds to go. Efren Herrera made the kick. And although Harmon didn’t mention him, Herrera also enjoyed a great pro career. He helped win a Super Bowl for the Dallas Cowboys.

Mark Harmon was giving off Hollywood vibes during his football career. Dan Jenkins, the iconic writer from Sports Illustrated, gushed about Harmon after the Nebraska win.

“Take a kid who looks like he ought to be in a beach-party movie, give him a legendary football name and then throw him up against a ball club that is obviously suffering a mild case of the No. 1’s. What have you got? You’ve got yourself an unbelievable opening to the 1972 college football season.

If Hollywood wanted to cast a young man in the role of football hero, Mark Harmon would be perfect. Thick blond hair, rapid smile, a beachboy tan, friendly. That’s Mark.”