Colts starting safety Khari Willis abruptly retired at age 26 to pursue a new calling

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USA Today

Colts’ starting strong safety Khari Willis announced his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday. Willis, a 2019 fourth-round pick who started in 34 games over the past three seasons, made the announcement via his Instagram account.

Here’s Willis’ full retirement statement that includes his immediate post-football plans.

“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. 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…”

A Michigan native, Willis played collegiately at Michigan State, where he was named a team captain in 2018. He was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in social science, with an emphasis on community governance and advocacy.

Willis made nine starts in 14 games during the 2019 season. He remained in the starting lineup in 2020 and received 10 starts in 2021. He tallied four interceptions with the Colts along with 11 passes defended, 3.5 sacks and 219 tackles. His two interceptions last season game against Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Rookie Nick Cross is next in line to replace Willis at strong safety. The 96th overall pick in the draft, Cross racked up 134 tackles, six interceptions, 12 pass breakups and four sacks and three forced fumbles over his three years at Maryland.

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