Colts starting safety Khari Willis unexpectedly retires at 26 for a unique reason

Colts safety Khari Willis (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Colts safety Khari Willis (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Khari Willis retires from the NFL at the age of 26 after playing just three seasons as a safety, all with the Indianapolis Colts.

On Wednesday afternoon, Khari Willis took to his Instagram to drop some surprising news on the Indianapolis Colts. In a photo of his jersey with an extended paragraph, the 26-year-old announced that he was retiring from the NFL after three seasons.

Willis was selected by the Colts in the fourth round of the 2019 Draft out of Michigan State. He was able to break into the starting lineup as a rookie and has remained there since, contributing to Indy’s defense.

In three seasons, Willis played 39 games for the Colt and started 33 of them at safety. He recorded four interceptions, 3.5 sacks, and 219 tackles. He also has one defensive touchdown.

In Willis’ statement, he explains that his decision to retire is so he can “devote the remainder of [his] life to the further advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Khari Willis retires from Colts to pursue ministry

Willis says that this is the calling of his life so he will leave football behind in order to pursue it. While unexpected, it does provide some context to Willis’ excused absences throughout Indy’s offseason program.

Internally, it may not have caught the team completely off guard but Willis was one of the starting safeties on defense. That means the Colts must quickly prepare his replacement.

The likely replacement is rookie Nick Cross out of Maryland. Indianapolis traded into the third round of this year’s Draft to select Cross and he was looked at as the potential safety of the future. With Willis’ retirement, Cross’ time will come sooner than expected.

For Willis, his professional career ends at 26 years old and 39 games played. He got to be a starter in the NFL and contribute to a quality defense for three seasons. Now, Willis can go follow his life’s calling.