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Five of a Kind : McKeon Brothers and Their Offspring Are Region's First Family of Football

October 14, 1994|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CANYON COUNTRY — Fresh air and open spaces awaited the five sons of Howard and Phyllis McKeon when the family left Tujunga 31 years ago to open a small Western wear retail store in the greener pastures of Canyon Country.

But rather than roam, the McKeon Five rooted and multiplied. Today, the numbers would stagger a steer.

Howard and Phil's Western Wear boasts 55 stores, enough to support Buck, Joe, John, Tim, Monte and their sizable families in grand fashion.

The McKeon Five have 36 children among them, enough to support the football programs at Canyon and Hart highs in grand fashion.

The ties that bind this clan are as clear as an autumn afternoon in Santa Clarita: business, the Church of Latter-day Saints and football. The McKeons play, pray and make a bundle together.

Steve McKeon, a junior quarterback, will lead Hart against Canyon tonight in a Foothill League opener. Steve's four older brothers also played at Hart, a tradition that might not end until sometime in the next century: Steve has brothers ages 3 and 1.

Steve's father, Joe, 54, has nine children, the only McKeons who have or will attend Hart.

The six children of Buck, 56, the eight children of John, 48, the four children of Tim, 46, and the nine children of Monte, 44, have been or presumably will be Canyon Cowboys.

McKeons, however, root for McKeons first and foremost. So expect Steve to get some boot-stomping cheers tonight from a select group of former Cowboys.

"All of us will pull for Steve in the sense that this is a family deal," said Tim, whose youngest son, Monte, is the tailback on the Canyon sophomore team.

Tim's other three sons were starting players at Canyon and he was president of the team's booster club for five years. His wife, Jan, and Joe's first wife, Connie, are sisters, making Steve and his older brothers double cousins of Tim's children.

"They tease me a lot," Steve said of his cousins. "They say, 'Oh yeah, that kid on the other side of the valley,' like I'm an outcast. It's all in fun."

Perhaps the most memorable Canyon-Hart game for the McKeons came in 1990 when Joey, Tim's second son, intercepted a Hart pass late in the fourth quarter to preserve Canyon's 14-7 victory. Dan, Joe's fourth son, was Hart's middle linebacker. Dan and Joe also played in Hart's 30-12 victory in 1989.

The only other time McKeon cousins faced off in a varsity game was in 1982. Hart, with Buck's oldest son Howard at linebacker, defeated Canyon, with Joe's second son Tim at linebacker, 22-14.

The McKeons meet often enough off the field. All live on or near Ravenhill Road in Canyon Country, an exclusive enclave of ranch-style homes near the junction of Sand Canyon and Placerita Canyon roads, a half-mile from the Mormon church they attend.

"I can go into my back yard and hit anybody's house but Joe's with a rock. I'd have to have a better arm to hit his," Tim said.

Howard and Phyllis, both deceased, bought 12 acres 20 years ago and subdivided it into six parcels, one for themselves and one for each of their sons. Joe sold his and built a home in Valencia, but after his divorce from Connie in 1980, he remarried and moved back to within a block of Ravenhill Road.

The McKeon Five also make the same drive to work, arriving each morning at the corporate offices in Canyon Country.

"It's a wonderful thing," Joe said. "At home or at the office, I walk next door and there is my brother. Next to him is another brother and next to him is another brother."

Joe's office is a shrine to Hart football. He has served as an assistant coach at the school since 1983, and his walls are lined with photographs of his sons wearing the Red and Black.

Tim's office is similarly adorned with the Green and Gold of Canyon. Every team photo since his oldest son Rick was an all-league tackle in 1987 hangs neatly on a wall.

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Besides football memorabilia, Buck's involvement in politics--he was Santa Clarita's first mayor and is a Republican congressman--is evident in his office decor. John's passion for raising Arabian horses is evident in his. Monte's children competed in baseball and tennis as well as football at Canyon, and the photos on his office walls reflect all three sports.

Only in the board room is there no sign of football. Instead, portraits of each son who has completed his two-year mission for the Mormon Church are displayed. The steps toward manhood are unmistakable for a McKeon: The Eagle Scouts, high school sports and a mission must precede a place in the family business.

"None of the third generation has anything locked up, although they all will have an opportunity," Tim said of being added to the payroll.

Among the family's girls, only John's daughter Heather, 21, has been on a church mission; she is currently serving it in Birmingham, Ala.

"It's always been, if you don't get married you ought to think about a mission," said John, who has two daughters older and two younger than Heather in addition to three sons.

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