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NFL Starter Retires at 26 to Pursue Ministry: I Want to Advance 'the Gospel of Jesus Christ'

Michael Foust | Contributor | Thursday, June 16, 2022
NFL Starter Retires at 26 to Pursue Ministry: I Want to Advance 'the Gospel of Jesus Christ'

NFL Starter Retires at 26 to Pursue Ministry: I Want to Advance 'the Gospel of Jesus Christ'

One of the Indianapolis Colts' top defensive players announced his retirement Wednesday after only three seasons in the league, saying he wants to pursue a lifetime of Christian ministry.

Khari Willis, 26, made the surprising announcement on Instagram, thanking his coaches, teammates and fans while emphasizing that he was following God's will.

Khari Willis announces his retirement

Willis was the Colts' starting strong safety and finished fifth on the team in tackles last season. He was drafted in the fourth round out of Michigan State in 2019. In retiring, he walked away from the $2.54 million he would have earned during the 2022 season, USA Today reports. He had earned about $3 million during his first three seasons.

"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," he wrote. "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."

Willis started 11 games last season while battling injuries but nevertheless finished high in defensive stats. He was fifth on the team in solo tackles and fifth in total tackles. He had two interceptions.

"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 said. "I've built lifelong relationships with numerous teammates, coaches and support staff that have impacted me greatly. The lessons that I've learned in this phase of my life will be valuable for me in my next chapter."

Zak Keefer, who covers the Colts for The Athletic, called Willis' retirement a "bit of a stunner."

Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich thanked Willis for his contribution to the team.

"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."


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Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Andy Lyons/Staff

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.