Mark Harmon’s Childhood Anecdote Proves the ‘NCIS’ Star Is the Most Loyal Friend Ever

If you didn’t follow college football in the ’70s, you may not have heard of Mark Harmon. If you didn’t watch St. Elsewhere in the ’80s, or Chicago Hope in the ’90s, you may not have known of him either. But, whether you are an NCIS fan or not, chances are you have become familiar with Harmon and that of the character he portrays, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

In 1986, Harmon was named the “Sexiest Man Alive” by People Magazine, and there is no doubt he is quite handsome. He’s athletic. And he obviously can act. He also works as a director and producer. He’s been married to actress Pam Dawber for 33 years, proof that he is a loyal family man. But his admirable trait of loyalty shown through well before that.

The young, loyal Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon NCIS
Mark Harmon ‘NCIS’ | Erik Voake/CBS via Getty Images

RELATED: What Is Mark Harmon’s Heritage? ‘NCIS’ Star’s Ethnicity Is a Blend

Harmon was born in Burbank, California in 1952. He is the son of the late Heisman Trophy winner and sports broadcaster, Tom Harmon, and actress turn stay-at-home mom, Elyse Knox Harmon.

He has two older sisters. Kristin, the eldest, is an artist and actress who once was married to the late actor, musician Ricky Nelson and appeared on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Kelly, the middle child, is also an actress and model, who was briefly married to the late auto engineer John DeLorean.

Harmon graduated from high school from Harvard-Westlake School. During those years, he worked delivering flowers. A story from that time reveals his loyalty from a young age.

He came upon an order for roses addressed to a girl he knew. A girl who his friend was in a serious relationship with. The flowers, however, were not from his friend but rather someone else. Harmon threw the card away replacing it with one penned with his friend’s name. 

From football to acting

Harmon earned his associate degree from Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley, where he also was named a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American. He went on to UCLA where he became starting quarterback for the UCLA Bruins aiding in a big turnaround for the team. He graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Communications. He also earned a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award and was named to the Second-team Academic All-American.

Although he was courted by the NFL, Harmon was not interested in career football. He considered law but decided against it. Having had a taste of acting with a walk-on part through his sister’s Ozzie and Harriet connection, he thought he would explore it as a career option. 

Slow at first, with mostly unnamed walk-on parts, eventually Harmon blossomed in his work. His first big break came with the role of a soldier, Robert Dunlap, in Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years, for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award. He joined the medical team of St. Elsewhere in 1983, portraying plastic surgeon Dr. Bobby Caldwell. He was then cast as an orthopedic surgeon on Chicago Hope in 1996.

And then came Gibbs

In 2012, Harmon earned a guest spot on the popular political drama, The West Wing. He portrayed Simon Donovan, a Secret Service agent tasked with protecting White House Secretary C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney, for which he received another Emmy nomination.  It was that role that caught the eye of producer Don Bellisario, who was working on his new project, NCIS

While we’ve established that Harmon is loyal, so is his alter-self, Gibbs. While we are not sure if there is a specific Gibbs’ Rule for loyalty, his shines through with his concern for his team and his friends throughout the 17 seasons, thus far, of NCIS. In case you are unfamiliar, Gibbs has created rules throughout his Naval Criminal Investigative Service career. Those rules came up in the first episode of NCIS and have remained a mainstay still.

As Showbiz Cheat Sheet revealed in a May 2020 article regarding Gibbs Rules, Harmon has said he admires his Gibbs’ character for having standards. “I think it’s good to have some sort of moral compass or character, structure,” Harmon said during an interview. “And I think that’s what Gibbs has. But whether I practice them, or I have a favorite, you’ll never know.”

We’re pretty sure he does follow some of them and if loyalty is one, it originated with Harmon and was transferred to Gibbs.