Colts' Khari Willis Retires at Age 26, Will Pursue Career in Ministry

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 15, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 17: Khari Willis #37 of the Indianapolis Colts is seen during the game against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Indianapolis Colts safety Khari Willis announced Wednesday he's retiring from the NFL.

"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 further advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Willis wrote on Instagram.

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Colts?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Colts</a> safety Khari Willis is retiring after three seasons. He explains why 👇👇👇 <a href="https://t.co/F8aac44Ecp">pic.twitter.com/F8aac44Ecp</a>

The 26-year-old made 11 appearances for the Colts in 2021, finishing with 63 tackles, two interceptions and four passes defended.

The team shared a statement from head coach Frank Reich:

"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."

The Colts selected Willis in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL draft. He immediately became a fixture in the secondary, making 14 appearances and nine starts as a rookie.

Willis was projected to be the starting strong safety for the 2022 campaign.

The timing of his retirement isn't ideal because Reich and his staff probably weren't expecting any major roster shake-ups at this point in the offseason. The start of training camp is about a month away, and Indianapolis opens the preseason in two months (Aug. 13 against the Buffalo Bills).

General manager Chris Ballard already fortified the Colts' depth at safety, though, which will come in handy in light of recent events.

The team added Rodney McLeod and Armani Watts through free agency and used the 96th overall pick on Maryland's Nick Cross. The front office appears to be especially high on Cross since it traded the No. 179 overall pick and a 2023 third-rounder to get him.

Willis' unexpected departure could catapult Cross into the starting strong safety job if he impresses in training camp.