Earlier this month, Indianapolis Colts starter Khari Willis was excused from team activities, including a mandatory minicamp, for “personal reasons.” On Wednesday, the 26-year-old athlete revealed that after three seasons of pro football, he’s taking his career in a different direction.
“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 announced on Instagram June 15.
The strong safety is walking away from a base salary of $2.54 million for the 2022 season. He was less than a year away from free agency and the opportunity for a heftier contract.
Khari Willis: ‘Humbled and Excited to Pursue the Holy Call’
On Instagram, Khari Willis thanked the Colts for “the opportunity to compete,” as well as for “lifelong relationships,” support, and valuable life lessons. He also thanked his family and friends, adding, “I look forward to your continued support through the next phase of my life.”
His retirement post concluded: “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 for all your support over the years. God bless.”
Willis, a Michigan native, is the seventh of 10 children. At the Catholic high school he attended, Willis set a football rushing record. He graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in interdisciplinary studies in social science, with an emphasis on community governance and advocacy.
In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Colts drafted Willis in the fourth round. During 39 games (33 of which he started), Willis made 219 tackles, four interceptions, a touchdown, and 3.5 sacks.
Colts Coach Frank Reich: ‘I Admire and Respect His Decision’
Colts coach Frank Reich, an outspoken Christian, thanked Khari Willis for his three seasons of on- and off-field contributions to the organization. “Khari’s character, leadership, and professionalism will be missed in our locker room as will his play on Sundays,” Reich said. “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.”
Teammates and fans expressed surprise at the career-change news but wished Willis well. “Good for him” and “respect,” some tweets read.