‘NCIS’ Star Mark Harmon Revealed Why He Didn’t Follow Dad’s Iconic Football Legacy at Michigan

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

University of Michigan alumnus Rich Eisen was incredulous when Mark Harmon told him he turned down a chance to play at the Big 10 powerhouse.

Harmon was on The Rich Eisen Show when the topic came up again.

Several schools recruited Harmon, who went on to play and star at UCLA. But Michigan should have had the inside track. Mark Harmon’s dad, Tom Harmon, is a legend at Michigan. He was the first Heisman Trophy winner at the school, and the only one for 50 years until Desmond Howard won it in 1991. So, it stood to reason that Mark may want to play at the same school. Or so Rich Eisen thought.

“I was I was looking for an opportunity to play you know and an opportunity to study what I wanted to study and I think for me the fit was and probably better at UCLA and my dad stayed totally out of it,” he said.

That meant saying no to legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, a blasphemy for any Michigan alumni of Eisen’s age.

Harmon almost went to Oklahoma but stuck with the Los Angeles weather and Bruins’ scheme, and things seemed to work out. The young quarterback was a star. And he led the Bruins to an overall record of 17-5 during the 1972 and 1973 seasons.

He was nearly good enough to make it to the College Football Hall of Fame. However, he is a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete. But when it was time to leave the school he turned down every offer for the NFL.

He didn’t know what he wanted to do after graduation, he told Eisen.

“I had a bunch of different starts,” the veteran actor began. “I did a lot of jobs, I sold shoes, I was in law school for a little bit. He added that he, “worked for Adidas for about eight months, and before that, I was doing merchandising in radio in Los Angeles.” 

He finally found his way to acting and things seemed to have worked out for him since.

Harmon Makes $20+ Million A Season On ‘NCIS’

Mark Harmon got his big break in 1983 as Dr. Robert Caldwell on St. Elsewhere. From there, he’s had dozens of roles in television and film. But, he’s likely most famous for his turn as Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS.

He’s a producer and has directed some of the 344 episodes of the show. Harmon’s also a producer of the spin-offs as well. All of that adds up to a massive payday.

According to Celebrity Net Worth, CBS pays Mark Harmon $525,000 per episode. As a result, he makes about $12.6 million in a usual 24-episode season. Per the website, Harmon will also be paid for his producer credits and syndication royalties for the show. And syndication royalties can be extremely lucrative.

Mark Harmon is the star of the show, but he’s quick to spread the credit around to the cast and crew.

“I look at the show as a team,” Harmon said. “I’ve always been a team guy. I’m not in [acting] for the personal part of this, and I wasn’t as an athlete either. It’s about the work and we all work together.”