Khari Willis was a year away from free agency and quite possibly the largest contract of his young career.
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But on Wednesday, the Indianapolis Colts safety announced he was retiring from football and following the prompting God has put on his heart to pursue a career in ministry.
“With much prayer and deliberation, I have elected to officially retire from the NFL as I endeavor to devote the remainder of my life to the further advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Willis wrote in an Instagram post announcing his retirement.
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Willis, 26, was selected in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, when the Colts traded up 20 spots to draft him out of Michigan State. He won the starting safety job midway through his rookie season and became a keystone of the Colts defense. He made 33 starts in 39 games over three seasons, tallying 219 tackles, four interceptions and 3.5 sacks.
Colts head coach Frank Reich, an outspoken Christian himself, was supportive of Willis in his decision to pursue a career in ministry.
“We’re thankful and appreciative of Khari’s contributions to the Colts both on and off the field over the last three years,” Reich said in a statement. “Khari’s character, leadership, and professionalism will be missed in our locker room as will his play on Sundays. I admire and respect his decision to transition into the next stage of his life and ministry and my prayers will always be with him.”
It’s unclear how long this had been in the plans for Willis, and he didn’t release any further immediate plans other than that he will pursue ministry.
Though a promising career in the NFL was still ahead of him, Willis is at peace with his decision.
“I thank all my family, friends and those who have supported me on this journey thus far and I look forward to your continued support through the next phase of my life,” Willis wrote. “I am both humbled and excited to pursue the holy call that God has for my life, which brings me much joy and purpose. Thank you all for your support over the years.”
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