McKenna was named Associated Press All-American after his senior year, becoming the first athlete in school history to be named All-American.
He was later selected in the seventh round of the 1955 National Football League draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. Eventually, he settled in Calgary where he played six seasons between 1955-1963 for the Stampeders.
During his CFL career he caught 88 passes for 1,436 yards and 10 touchdowns, all while still playing both ways.
McKenna set a then-league record with a 104-yard touchdown reception from Don Klosterman in 1955. That pass play still ranks fourth all-time in the CFL.
Even though McKenna had a tremendous football career and was extremely successful as a chief geophysicist for Texaco until retiring in 1989, he will be remembered for so much more.
“I think more than sports, he’ll be remembered for family,” Jake McKenna said. “Family was his No. 1 priority until the day he died. As far as sports, no one ever had anything bad to say about Bill. All the guys up in Canada, everyone said when he was on the field he gave 100 percent, but he was a true gentleman. He was giant, but he was gentle and when the game was over he’d come over and shake your hand.”
In addition to brothers Dick and Jake and many McKenna relatives on the North Shore, McKenna is survived by his wife, Myken, three daughters, and several grandchildren.
“He was just one of the nicest human beings that I’ve met in my life. He was so well liked by so many different people that came in contact with him,” Stehlin said. “There are some people, like Billy, that leave a footprint in your heart.”