Colts safety Khari Willis retires at 26 for religious calling

Indianapolis Colts safety Khari Willis is retiring from the NFL at the age of 26 for a life as a religious leader.

Willis announced his retirement Wednesday in an Instagram post, where he explained his decision and thanked the Colts.

"I'd first like to thank the Indianapolis Colts organization for granting me the opportunity to compete in the National Football League the past three years," Willis wrote. "I've built lifelong relationships with numerous teammates, coaches and support staff that have impacted me greatly. The lessons that I've in this phase of my life will be valuable for me in my next chapter."

"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. I thank all of 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. 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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Willis started at least 11 games over the past three seasons for the Colts after being selected in the fourth round of the 2019 draft out of Michigan State. He tallied 219 combined tackles, 3.5 sacks and four interceptions in 39 games in his career.

In a statement released by the team, Colts head coach Frank Reich praised Willis for his "character, leadership and professionalism" during his time with Indianapolis."

"We're thankful and appreciative of Khari's contributions to the Colts both on and off the field over the last three seasons. 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."

While uncommon, Willis isn't the first NFL player to retire in less than four seasons.


Former San Francisco 49ers running back Glen Coffee left the league before the 2010 preseason at the age of 23 following his rookie year because he felt God had other plans for him that didn't involve football. Former 49ers linebacker Chris Borland retired in 2015 at the age of 24 following his rookie season, though he cited concerns over concussions and head trauma.

More recently, Detroit Lions DT John Penisini retired this month at the age of 25 after just two NFL seasons.

Colts safety Khari Willis retired from the NFL at the age of 26. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Colts safety Khari Willis retired from the NFL at the age of 26. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)