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Tom Harmon
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Never Understood All The Fuss

1940 Heisman winner Tom Harmon

Growing up as the son of a Hollywood starlet and football star, Mark Harmon always saw the big trophy sitting on his father's desk. Harmon finally learned what that odd-looking trophy was when he was about 5 years old. "A kid at the park told me about it," Harmon said. "Not my dad. I went home and asked him about it." Tom Harmon was a football star at Michigan from 1938 to 1940. An electrifying running back, quarterback and kick returner, Harmon led the country in scoring in both 1939 and 1940. He won the 1940 Heisman Trophy as a senior. In his final college game at Ohio State, Harmon completed 11 of 12 passes for 151 yards with two touchdowns, ran for 139 yards and two scores, kicked four extra points and intercepted three passes in a 40-0 rout of the Buckeyes. He received a standing ovation from the Ohio State crowd at game's end -- an honor no Michigan player has received since. Harmon's accomplishments after college were even more extraordinary. He was a decorated fighter pilot during World War II, played for the NFL's Los Angeles Rams and became a legendary sportscaster. "My dad was always the first one to give his team credit, and he always said he wouldn't have been standing there without his teammates," said Mark Harmon, an accomplished actor who currently stars in the CBS drama "NCIS." "The trophy was always there on his desk, but he'd never talk about it unless you asked him." Mark Harmon's mother, the former Elyse Knox, didn't understand all the fuss about the Heisman Trophy, either, when Tom Harmon first started courting her. "They'd gone to dinners at [former Heisman Trophy winner] Les Horvath's house and Glenn Davis' house," Mark Harmon said. "On the drive home one night, she asked my father, 'I don't know what the big deal is about this Heisman Trophy. Everybody has one!'" Mark Harmon said he learned to appreciate the significance of the Heisman Trophy while playing quarterback at UCLA from 1970 to 1973. "When I was at UCLA, there were a number of players who wanted to come over and see that trophy," Harmon said. "It represents the best, and that's special."
--Mark Schlabach



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