Utica Ford II grad starring as Detroit Mercy goalkeeper

By: Timothy Pontzer | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 11, 2017

 University of Detroit Mercy senior goalkeeper Robbie Beckwell leaps to make a save during a contest earlier this season. A Utica Ford II grad, Beckwell is in his second year as the starting goalie for the Titans.

University of Detroit Mercy senior goalkeeper Robbie Beckwell leaps to make a save during a contest earlier this season. A Utica Ford II grad, Beckwell is in his second year as the starting goalie for the Titans.

Photo provided by Detroit Mercy athletics

MACOMB COUNTY — Robbie Beckwell enjoys being the last line of defense.

A Shelby Township native and a 2013 Utica Ford II graduate, Beckwell currently stars as the starting goalkeeper at the University of Detroit Mercy. He credits his time with the Falcons as a period that prepared him for success at the next level.

“I’m thankful for my time at Ford even though we honestly didn’t have the greatest team when I played there,” Beckwell explained. “I think during my two years we won five games, so I was seeing a lot of shots every game. But even though we weren’t winning, it helped me get better.”

At press time, the senior netminder led the Horizon League with 36 saves. He cites the level of competition he faced at the prep level as a key time of development for his craft.

“In high school, the game is about whoever has the fastest kids, and that helped me with breakaways and shot stopping, and that’s my strength as a keeper,” Beckwell remarked. “At Ford we faced the (Macomb Area Conference) Red (Division), playing a team like (Utica) Eisenhower twice a year, a historic program. Our out-of-conference games against the (Oakland Activities Association) was an even better class of soccer.”

Nicholas Deren has served as the coach for Detroit Mercy since 2009. He said he likes recruiting from the MAC Red, believing it to be one of the top leagues in the entire state.

“These east-side kids I get I really, really like,” Deren said. “They add a different element; they have a grit and a fight. They’re battle tested and have an edge. Those games in the MAC Red are competitive every day, and they know how to get results.”

Beckwell has helped to produce those results, earning six career shutouts, with three of those clean sheets coming this season. He currently ranks third in the conference with a 78.3 save percentage.

“We know we can trust (Beckwell) out there. He’s been having a fantastic year so far,” Deren said. “He’s very strong and confident in his abilities. He’s such a mentor to the younger kids on our team. It’s amazing to see how much they look up to him.”

Now in his second year as a starter and his fifth year in the Detroit Mercy program, Beckwell relishes his role as a leader. He said he learned how to succeed in that role through his time with Ford.

Beckwell backstopped the Falcons during his freshman and sophomore seasons before playing academy soccer for his final two years. While he was unable to play for Ford while playing academy, he did spend time as a volunteer assistant coach under Ford coach Teresa Steinwascher.

“As a goalkeeper you need to be vocal, and that was something I had to do as an assistant — moving people around and game planning,” Beckwell said. “And I didn’t just help the goalkeepers; I helped the defense. Even here, I sat on the bench for three years, and that was the same kind of thing. Even though I was on the team, I was basically an assistant coach, shouting out things to the field.”

Beckwell still serves in his role as an assistant at Ford. While it is difficult to make many games or practices in the fall due to the Titans’ schedule, in the spring he also helps Steinwascher with the girls team.

“(Beckwell) is a natural leader,” Steinwascher said. “He is a player that others can look up to. He has the ability to make others around him better, and his drive and determination to be the best is contagious. I knew Robbie was not only good enough to play college soccer, but was determined to make an impact that would drive a team to success.”

This season, Beckwell became only the 11th Titans goalie in school history to post 100 career saves. Standing at only 5-foot-9, he takes great pride in succeeding at a position that usually features players of a taller stature.

“Being shorter, it was a tough transition because everything in college is in the air with crosses and long throw-ins,” Beckwell said. “But it can help, too, because kids today are taught to shoot low and keep the ball on the ground against taller goalies. I don’t think many realize how quick I can get to the ground for a save.”

Beckwell hopes to close out his collegiate career with a Horizon League championship. In the meantime, he hopes to finish strong in the shadow of his old stomping grounds.

“I love being able to play here,” Beckwell said. “My friends and family get to come to the games, and I get to play with a lot of local guys I grew up with.”