The McKenna’s were a family of athletes and Bill paved the way.
“Bill was always saying, ‘You don’t drink, you don’t smoke. You train.’ I’m 12 or 13 years old and I keep seeing that. Now, I go to high school and I have that embedded in me,” Dick McKenna said. “We were always taught to do our best and push and play hard. We got that from our father, but Bill kept showing us how to do that.”
Football games at Brandeis were an event for the McKenna’s with Bill’s parents, his brothers, and aunts and uncles populating the stands.
He routinely put on a show for his family as a two-way end.
McKenna thrived on offense, however, playing for coach Benny Friedman, who was ahead of his time when it came to the passing game.
Friedman, who was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005, frequently had his quarterback operate out of a shotgun formation and the 6-foot-3, 215-pound McKenna had the speed and the hands to become the main target in the Brandeis offense.
McKenna was the No. 1 receiver for quarterback Tommy Egan and Stehlin.
“He was the best football player they had in a relatively short history,” Stehlin said about the Brandeis program, which discontinued in 1959. “Playing for Benny Friedman was a great situation because he was ahead of his time. We were fortunate to do so well together. Unfortunately, we did not get to play our junior and senior years together.”
McKenna holds the Brandeis record for points scored in a game and in a career. He’s also the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards. He was inducted into the Joseph Linsey Brandeis Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993.
Stehlin remembers the game McKenna had against Wayne University in 1952, catching a couple touchdown passes. McKenna also had a legendary performance against Wayne the following year, stopping a Wayne running back short of the goal line on the game’s final play to preserve a 6-0 victory.