The 18-year-old becomes the second Kickers player on a USL Academy contract to sign a professional deal with the club | Image Credit: Jessica Stone Hendricks Photography
RICHMOND, Va. – The Richmond Kickers announced that defender Beckett Howell has signed his first professional contract to represent his hometown club on a multi-year deal, pending league and federation approval.
Howell is the second academy player to sign a professional contract under Head Coach and Chief Sporting Officer Darren Sawatzky. He joins fellow Richmond United alumnus, Landon Johnson, who signed his first professional contract with the Kickers in September 2023.
"Signing my first professional contract in Richmond means the world to me," Howell said. "Being able to play in front of my family and friends while representing the club I grew up watching feels amazing. I want to thank Coach Kirkpatrick, Kwaku, Sascha, Cally, Will, Leigh, Conner, Mika and Darren for guiding me through this entire process. Lastly, I want the younger players to know that I was in their position not long ago. If you work hard, seek guidance, and love the game, the possibilities are endless.”
Since joining the Kickers on a USL Academy contract in February 2023, Howell grew into an important contributor down the final stretch of the 2023 season. In league play, Howell started the final four matches of the USL League One regular season, amassing 338 of his 429 total league minutes played in that run of matches. He made 13 total appearances for the club in all competitions with his first career start coming in July 2023 during the club's international friendly against Guatemalan side Comunicaciones FC.
"Signing Beckett further entrenches our initiative to build with local players and to play the top young talents in Virginia representing their hometown club," Head Coach and Chief Sporting Officer Darren Sawatzky said. "Beckett worked incredibly hard this season to earn valuable minutes and his progression warranted the opportunity to grow here as a professional for years to come. He is a feisty warrior with a quality left foot and bite in the tackle, and his demeanor in the locker room is what we look for in our culture. The real work starts now for Beckett but we know he will continue to excel and learn as we rekindle our winning pedigree in 2024 and beyond."
"We're thrilled to sign Beckett to his first professional contract, and we admire Beckett's work ethic, competitive spirit and commitment to the larger RVA community," Kickers Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rob Ukrop said. "It's always great to see homegrown talent grow and develop, and we are committed to helping Beckett fulfill his potential in the coming years at City Stadium. As we continue working with Richmond United and other clubs in our region to develop players both on and off the field, Beckett is a wonderful example of this refreshed partnership to strengthen our community through the beautiful game."
A versatile defender capable of playing both centrally and on the flank, Howell won 55% of his aerial duels and 73% of his tackles. Howell started the final four matches as the team's left fullback, proving he had the motor to join the attack aggressively and get back on defense after pushing forward.