Steve Eighinger

Some familiar faces had earlier careers

By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 28, 2019 7:00 am

One of my all-time favorite television programs is "NCIS," and the principal reason is the Leroy Jethro Gibbs character played by Mark Harmon.

And while I completely buy into Harmon's laconic portrayal of Gibbs, I can't help but always think of him as a quarterback at UCLA first and foremost.

Harmon was at the helm of UCLA teams in 1972 (8-3) and 1973 (9-2) that saw the Bruins win 17 games and be ranked in the Associated Press top-10 on several occasions each of those seasons.

Harmon, who has been married for 32 years to Pam Dawber -- the Mindy portion of the old "Mork and Mindy" sitcom that introduced the late Robin Williams to the masses, is one of many stars of stage and screen who first gained attention as some sort of outstanding athlete.

Most of us know action movie headliner Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was a pro wrestling superstar,and before that a defensive lineman at the University of Miami. Most are also likely familiar with Arnold Schwarznegger's bodybuilding career before he became a movie star and later a politician.

But how many knew that:

º Couch potato and lovable loser Ed O'Neill, one of the stars of "Modern Family" and before that "Married ... with Children," was a talented defensive lineman at Youngstown State. O'Neill was good enough to have signed as an undrafted free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969. O'Neill, however, never made it to the NFL. He was cut in training camp that year.

º Speaking of Arnold-esque figures, before Sean Connery captured worldwide interest as Agent 007 in the James Bond films, he captured worldwide interest as a contender for the Mr. Universe bodybuilding crown. He never won the Mr. Universe title, but he certainly won over a legion of fans as James Bond.

º Phil Robertson, one of the good ole boys from "Duck Dynasty," was the starting quarterback at Louisiana Tech ahead of future NFL legend and Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw. Robertson was reportedly offered a shot at playing for the Washington Redskins but opted not to because he felt it would interfere with his hunting.

º Tom Selleck has long been a fan favorite from his roles on "Blue Bloods" and "Magnum, P.I." not to mention such films as "Three Men and a Baby," but long before those days he was quite a basketball player. The 6-foot-4 Selleck was good enough to earn a scholarship to USC, where he played for two seasons before turning his full attention to acting. He definitely made the right choice.

º Outspoken "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart was a collegiate soccer star before he was offering political and other opinions. Stewart once scored the game-winning goal for William and Mary when it upset NCAA powerhouse Connecticut.

º The first few times I saw host Terry Crews on "America's Got Talent" (a show that's on each week in our house because it's one of my wife's favorites) there was something about him that seemed familiar, yet I had no idea why. Finally, some quick exploration told me he had also been on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," which didn't really help since I've never watched that program. Further exploration revealed he had played in the NFL for the Rams, Chargers and Redskins, which means I can now rest easier the next time my wife turns on that show.