JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Armada opens its first season in the NPSL—the National Premier Soccer League—Saturday at Miami. When they do, they’ll have Drew Beckie available for play.
That might not seem to be a big thing, since Beckie played in 28 games for the team last year. But he faced some major health challenges in the offseason, and now he's fighting to get back to 100 percent.
After the Armada’s season, Beckie was in Sweden training, after a tryout in Finland. Suddenly, the 27-year-old started experiencing chest pain. He checked into a hospital, and at first, doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him.
After a week, they determined that Beckie was dealing with a virus that was attacking his heart and other systems. For a while, Beckie wasn’t sure if he would ever play soccer again. That was a painful thought, considering it’s not just his passion, but a family tradition—his sister plays professionally, too.
"Right when it happened, and when I was with the doctors originally in Sweden, it wasn't looking good, but the body can change," Beckie said. "I put a lot to prayer and just resting and hoping that it came back. The heart is incredible muscle."
Medical costs started to pile up. Because Beckie was between teams, he didn’t have health insurance, so his family started a GoFundMe campaign. Beckie has played professionally in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Ottawa and Colorado as well as for Canada. The donations poured in from all across the world of soccer. Within a matter of weeks, nearly $20,000 was raised from donations from friends, teammates and fans.
"Yeah, it was very humbling and all of the support really got me through," Beckie said. "My sisters doing the GoFundMe was big. The people that poured in for that, people take their time and their hard-earned money to donate to my cause, and helped me pay some bills...I can't thank them enough. I wish I could thank them individually, but hopefully they see something like this and know that I'm very appreciative."
After months of being limited, Beckie finally got the go ahead from doctors to return the pitch.
"When I when I got the news from the doctor on Good Friday, so it was fantastic," Beckie said. "I went to the doctor, thinking maybe I'll get a better thought of the timeframe, maybe, maybe, June, July, or if I'll ever get to. He looked at the scans had some more scans and he gave me the all-clear, which I wasn't expecting. It's fantastic to be back."
Beckie lost nearly 25 pounds during the illness and is just now starting to rebuild muscle mass.
"When I was in Sweden, I wasn't allowed to eat for the first week in hospital, so that makes a difference," Beckie said. "And for me, I have to be working out to put on weight. It's a good and bad thing, but I'm excited to lift weights again."
With all of the changes to the Armada this offseason, head coach Mark Lowry is more than pleased to have Beckie back in the fold.
"Psychologically, huge, and as a quality player, huge, so on and off the field, he adds to the group," Lowry said. "He is a great human being. He's got an incredible personality. Off the field in the locker room and on the field. It's another guy that understands how we do things. It's huge for me. It's huge for Drew. It's huge for the group. We're grateful and blessed to have him."