Photo by Erik Andrews '09

Senior quad-captain Brendan McKee is the heart of the nation's best scoring defense.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Bonesaw

By Alex Kantor

October 25, 2006

Brendan is mild mannered, well dressed and well spoken. He attended Tabor Academy and Deerfield Academy, two of New England’s finest preparatory schools, before coming to Amherst College. Brendan is a great student, person and friend.

Bonesaw is mean, fast and hard hitting. He grew up in Hull, Mass., and was too big for Pop Warner football. He was forced to play on the high school varsity team in seventh grade. Bonesaw is athletically gifted, quick and strong.

These are the two personalities of Amherst College senior Brendan McKee, one of the quad-captains of the Lord Jeff football team, and the emotional leader of the defensive unit.

Long before McKee was given the nickname Bonesaw by the Amherst student body, he was excelling on the football fields of Massachusetts. When he was just 12 years of age, the Hull High varsity team he was playing with won the 4A Super Bowl, and in his two years at Tabor Academy, his teams went to back-to-back New England Prep School Athletic Conference Super Bowls. His senior year at Tabor he was named co-All New England Player of the Year with fellow Lord Jeff Ngai Otieno ’06.

During his senior year at Tabor, McKee broke his ankle, and a number of his top choice schools backed away from how seriously they were recruiting him. He then enrolled for a post-graduate year at Deerfield Academy, instead of settling for anything less than the best. The year at boarding school matured McKee immensely and taught him a lot about football, life and most importantly, himself. “Eric Widmer, the headmaster at the time, is a legend, and emphasized the importance of winning with pride,” McKee explains. “Every Friday he would drive onto our field in an old Model T Ford that the school owned, and talk to us about the next day’s game. He understands the life lessons that can only be taught on a football field.”

Deerfield Academy has a history very similar to Amherst’s, with magnificent academics and gifted athletics. McKee used Deerfield as a stepping stone to get to where he wanted to be. During his post-graduate year, McKee had to apply to have a cell phone so he could talk to college coaches after study hall, when their room phones shut off for curfew. “During that fall, I found myself talking to Coach [E.J.] Mills more often than my parents,” McKee explained. “I felt from a football standpoint, he’d be outstanding,” said head coach E.J. Mills.

After receiving All New England honors on both offense and defense for his season at Deerfield, McKee had the pick of any number of schools with top academics and great football programs, but he chose Amherst for a variety of reasons. “Academically, I looked forward to a liberal arts education, and dabbling in everything from psychology, to music, to film to politics, and so on. I came here because there is a legacy of great defense.”

Mills believes that because McKee was “away from home at Deerfield Academy, he was able to adjust to being at college very quickly. When he got here he was just ready to get to work.”

As a first-year, McKee finished fourth on the team in sacks as a substitute. He recalls, “We had a tremendous defense that year. We tied a league record for shutouts in a season with four, but our other four games were all tight losses so it was disappointing at the same time.” In his first collegiate game against Bates, McKee remembers being on the starting kickoff unit, and “on the opening play of the game, I was blind-sided. I was pumped pretty good, and now I make sure I always have my head on a swivel. I also got my first collegiate sack in that game, though, something I’ll never forget.”

In his second season, McKee began to see consistent time in the starting line-up and immediately made an impact, finishing sixth on the team in total tackles with 34, including 16 solos, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, and a forced fumble. McKee had an exceptional game against top-ranked Trinity College, whose head coach Chuck Priore had recruited him all through high school. “He said I made a mistake by going to Amherst, so I really wanted to play well in that game and represent Amherst College football,” tells McKee. McKee finished the game with nine tackles and a forced fumble.

During his junior campaign, McKee really took over the defensive line, and finished the season second in the NESCAC in tackles-for-loss. McKee credits the other players on the line with him, as well as the amount of time he spends watching game film, for his success. “I look for tendencies of the offensive lineman I’m going against, and I play every game very physically and try to dominate the guy in front of me,” McKee exclaims. “I try to make it clear early on in the game that I can overpower them.”

It is that attitude and approach on the field that has earned McKee his infamous nickname, Bonesaw. Last year at Hamilton, McKee made a nice play early in the game and crossed his arms and made a sawing motion. “Ever since then I’ve been known as Bonesaw,” jokes McKee.

McKee was elected captain this season because of his less aggressive mentality off the field. “His off-season mentoring of younger players is where McKee has made the greatest gains as a player,” says Mills. “He likes to lift, and is always in the weight room; he really understands what it takes to be a good player at this level and is now passing that on to younger guys on the defensive line.”

Defensive line coach Patrick Hayes ’03 calls McKee “tremendously talented athletically. Initially when someone is as big as he his, there’s usually something wrong with them. They tend to be awkward or slow, but McKee is just big, tough and athletic.”

Off the field, Mills and McKee have a great relationship, and Mills often pokes fun at the Bonesaw moniker. Mills knows that McKee always wanted to be here and has taken full advantage of what Amherst has to offer. Hayes says that “McKee is mild mannered off the field, and he has matured a lot this year as a person and leader on the field.”

In the classroom McKee is a standout student with a 3.35 GPA in political science, and has aspirations of working in the financial industry. McKee spent last summer at an internship for Merrill Lynch in their Global Private Client division. He worked with a financial advisor creating proposals for high-net worth clients and developing international bond offerings for clients who wish to hedge against the U.S. dollar.

Raised near the shore, McKee has grown to love fishing, sailing and golfing in the off-season. McKee’s off-season hobbies are very relaxing and low key, but for now, his number one passion is football. McKee plays every Saturday with heart and tenacity, hoping that he can help lead Amherst to a NESCAC title in his last season with the Lord Jeffs.