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National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame names Mark Harmon Gold Medal winner

by | May 16, 2019 | Football Blogs, Headlines, RRSN News | 0 comments

IRVING, Texas (May 16, 2019) – The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame announced today that former UCLA quarterback Mark Harmon has been named the 2019 recipient of the NFF Gold Medal in recognition of his exceptional accomplishments, unblemished reputation and for reflecting the values of amateur football. He will be honored for his achievements during the 62nd NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 10 at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City, which will also celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football.


“As we prepare to celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football, Mark Harmon captures exactly what we hope to inspire in future generations of young football players, making him the perfect recipient for the NFF’s highest honor,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “An NFF National Scholar-Athlete at UCLA in the early 1970s, Mark took that same relentless drive to succeed, applying it to his career as an actor and unequivocally becoming one of the most successful stars of his generation. He has earned this honor many times over, and we are extremely proud to add his name to the esteemed list of past NFF Gold Medal recipients.”


The highest and most prestigious award presented by the National Football Foundation, the Gold Medal recognizes an outstanding American who has demonstrated integrity and honesty; achieved significant career success; and has reflected the basic values of those who have excelled in amateur sport, particularly football. First presented to President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner in 1958, the Gold Medal boasts an impressive list of past recipients, including seven presidents, four generals, three admirals, one Supreme Court Justice, 29 corporate CEOs and chairmen, actor John Wayne and baseball immortal Jackie Robinson. Harmon will become the 65th recipient of the NFF Gold Medal. (See below for the full list of past recipients.)


“Having achieved the highest levels of success, Mark Harmon has always remained humble and focused on the things that really matter in life, which is hard work, perseverance and teamwork,” said NFF Awards Committee Chairman Jack Ford. “His success on the gridiron as a student-athlete and his subsequent icon status in film and television make him exceptionally well-qualified as our 2019 Gold Medal recipient. We look forward to welcoming him back to the NFF’s stage in December, poetically 46 years after his being honored as an NFF National Scholar-Athlete during an event when another famous actor, John Wayne, accepted the NFF Gold Medal.”


Harmon was born and raised in Southern California; the son of actress Elyse Knox and Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon, a 1954 College Football Hall of Fame inductee from Michigan. He attended The Harvard School (now known as Harvard-Westlake) in Los Angeles, playing football, baseball and rugby. On the gridiron, he mostly took the field as a running back and safety, only appearing in four games at quarterback. He broke his elbow as a junior, and did not play varsity football as a senior.


Not recruited out of high school, Harmon headed to Pierce Junior College in Woodland Hills, California, and he quarterbacked the team to a 7-2 record in 1971, earning All-America laurels. His performance earned him multiple scholarship offers, including Oklahoma in an effort led by Barry Switzer, the offensive coordinator at the time and a future College Football Hall of Fame coach, to recruit him. Harmon opted to stay in his hometown of Los Angeles, playing for UCLA head coach Pepper Rodgers and assistant coaches Homer SmithLynn Stiles and Terry Donahue, also a future College Football Hall of Fame coach.


Playing alongside future College Football Hall of Fame inductees Randy Cross and John Sciarra, Harmon helped orchestrate a UCLA turnaround, quarterbacking the Bruins, which had finished 2-7-1 at eighth-place in the Pac-8 in 1971, to a combined 17-5 record in 1972 and 1973. In his first game ever as a Bruin, which opened the 1972 season, Harmon led an underdog UCLA to a dramatic 20-17 win against two-time defending national champion Nebraska, snapping the Huskers’ 32-game-unbeaten streak.


A Wishbone-T quarterback who could run, pass, fake and mix plays, Harmon rushed for more yards and touchdowns than he did passing, amassing 1,504 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns versus passing for 845 yards and 9 touchdowns during his tenure in Westwood. The offensive coordinator Homer Smith’s wishbone offense forced Harmon to make multiple decisions in very short time periods, distributing the ball to running backs Kermit Johnson and James McAlister. The combination created the top running game in the nation in 1973, and UCLA set school records for total yards gained (4,403), average yards per game (400) and rushing touchdowns (56).


A Communications major who aspired to become a doctor, Harmon excelled in the UCLA classrooms, carrying a 3.45 GPA and graduating cum laude. His accomplishments earned him Second Team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors as well as an NFF National Scholar-Athlete Award, which led to his trip to New York City where he was honored at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner, the same night that John Wayne accepted the NFF Gold Medal.


“In today’s society, the scholar-athlete is indeed a rare breed,” Harmon said in responding for the NFF Scholar-Athlete Class in 1973. “Not only does he excel on the field, but he competes in the classroom as well…. As we gather here tonight to pay our respects to the men who made the great American game of football what it is today, we hope that one day in the future some of us from the Class of ’74 might be fortunate enough to carry on the great tradition that has been passed down by the distinguished men in this room. If we do, it is because our universities gave us the chance and the game of football has given us the principles.”


After UCLA, Harmon declined professional football offers to instead pursue acting. He worked in advertising, as a shoe company rep and as a carpenter between acting gigs and appearing in Coors beer commercials. His hard work eventually paid off with a big break on NBC’s St. Elsewhere and the leading role of Dr. Robert Caldwell. His success continued on NBC’s police drama Reasonable Doubts starring as detective Dickey Cobb and CBS’s Chicago Hope where he appeared as Dr. Jack McNeil.


He also had memorable arcs on the hit shows Moonlighting and The West Wing before landing the lead role of Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, on CBS’ global favorite NCIS series, which has become part of television history, approaching its 400th episode and recently inking a deal for its 17th season. The most-watched-scripted show on American television today and consistently ranked among the five highest-rated TV shows each year, NCIS is a TV juggernaut, attracting more than 15 million viewers each week throughout most of its run.


In 2011, Harmon became an executive producer on NCIS, and in 2014 an idea he co-developed became the spinoff NCIS: New Orleans which premiered on CBS with Harmon as an executive producer alongside Gary Glasberg. His big-screen credits include Freaky FridayWyatt Earp,The Presidio, Summer School and Stealing Home. He has worked with Elizabeth TaylorMichael CaineSean ConneryJamie Lee CurtisJodie FosterAllison JanneyKarl MaldenPatricia Arquette and Denzel Washington among countless other Hollywood notables.


Harmon has received numerous accolades and award nominations during his career, including being honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Oct. 1, 2012, but he has always remained humble with an appreciation for the efforts of others. Quietly giving back, Harmon’s charitable work includes Saving Bristol Bay, Stand Up To Cancer, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Kids Wish Network, Clothes Off Our Back, Entertainment Industry Foundation, Oklahoma Kidz Charities Foundation, Oklahoma City Indian Clinic and The Children’s Center OKC.


From his time as a quarterback at UCLA until now, as an executive producer and star of the CBS hit series NCIS, Harmon has always treated teammates and production crews with familial respect and loyalty.

“I look at the show as a team,” Harmon said during a previous interview. “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.”


Harmon will be honored during the 62nd NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 10 at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City. Harmon will accept his award alongside the yet-to-be-announced recipients of the NFF Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award, NFF John L. Toner Award for excellence in athletics administration and NFF Chris Schenkel Award for excellence in broadcasting.


In addition to the presentation of the NFF Major Awards, the 62nd NFF Annual Awards Dinner will provide the stage for the induction of the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame Class; the presentation of the 2019 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Awards; and the bestowing of the 30th NFF William V. Campbell Trophy® to the nation’s top football scholar-athlete.


The 2019 College Football Hall of Fame Class includes Terrell Buckley (Florida State), Rickey Dixon (Oklahoma), London Fletcher (John Carroll [OH]), Jacob Green (Texas A&M), Torry Holt (North Carolina State), Raghib “Rocket” Ismail (Notre Dame), Darren McFadden (Arkansas), Jake Plummer (Arizona State), Troy Polamalu (Southern California), Joe Thomas (Wisconsin), Lorenzo White (Michigan State), Patrick Willis (Mississippi), Vince Young (Texas) and coaches Dennis Erickson (Idaho, Wyoming, Washington State, Miami [FL], Oregon State, Arizona State) and Joe Taylor (Howard, Virginia Union, Hampton, Florida A&M).


On Oct. 30, the NFF will announce the members of the 2019 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class, who will vie as finalists for The William V. Campbell Trophy®. They will be honored at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 10, where one will be named the recipient of the Campbell Trophy® as the nation’s top football scholar-athlete.


For ticket information at the 62nd NFF Annual Awards Dinner, please contact Will Rudd at 972.556.1000 or wrudd@footballfoundation.com.


Recipients of the NFF Gold Medal include:


2019 – Mark Harmon

2018 – Aaron Feis

2018 – Jason Seaman

2016 – Archie Manning

2015 – Dr. Condoleezza Rice

2014 – Dr. Tom G. Catena

2014 – George M. Weiss

2013 – Roger Goodell

2012 – Roscoe C. Brown, Jr.

2011 – Robert M. Gates

2009 – Bill Bowerman

2009 – Phil Knight

2008 – Sen. John Glenn

2007 – Gen. Pete Dawkins

2007 – Roger Staubach

2006 – Bobby Bowden

2006 – Joseph V. Paterno

2005 – Jon F. Hanson

2004 – William V. Campbell

2003 – Gen. Tommy R. Franks

2002 – George Steinbrenner III

2001 – Billy Joe “Red” McCombs

2000 – F.M. Kirby

1999 – Keith Jackson

1998 – John H. McConnell

1997 – Jackie Robinson

1996 – Eugene F. Corrigan

1995 – Harold Alfond

1994 – Thomas S. Murphy

1993 – Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf

1992 – Donald R. Keough

1991 – Pres. George H. Bush

1990 – Adm. Thomas H. Moorer

1989 – Paul Brown

1988 – Clinton E. Frank

1987 – Gen. Charles R. Meyer

1986 – William H. Morton

1985 – William I. Spencer

1984 – John F. McGillicuddy

1983 – Sen. Jack Kemp

1982 – Silver Anniversary –

(All Past Honorees Recognized)

1981 – Justin W. Dart

1980 – Walter J. Zable

1979 – Adm. William P. Lawrence

1978 – Vincent dePaul Draddy

1977 – Gen. Louis H. Wilson

1976 – Edgar B. Speer

1975 – David Packard

1974 – Gerald B. Zornow

1973 – John Wayne

1972 – Pres. Gerald R. Ford

1971 – Pres. Ronald W. Reagan

1970 – Adm. Thomas J. Hamilton

1969 – Pres. Richard M. Nixon

1968 – Chester J. LaRoche

1967 – Frederick L. Hovde

1966 – Earl H. “Red” Blaik

1965 – Juan T. Trippe

1964 – Donold B. Lourie

1963 – Roger M. Blough

1962 – Byron “Whizzer” White

1961 – Pres. John F. Kennedy

1960 – Pres. Herbert C. Hoover

1960 – Amos Alonzo Stagg

1959 – Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur

1958 – Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower