Indianapolis Colts Safety Khari Willis Announces Retirement From the NFL to Pursue Ministry

by Dustin Schutte

After three seasons in the NFL, Indianapolis Colts safety Khari Willis is calling an audible. He’s trading in the helmet and shoulder pads for a full-time career in ministry.

Willis made the surprising announcement with a post on Instagram. Prior to the decision, the Colts provided the safety with an excused absence from organized team activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp for personal matters.

The former fourth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft was entering the final year of his rookie contract. After the 2022 season, Willis would have had the opportunity to test the free agency market. Instead, the safety is walking down a new path.

“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 wrote. “I am both humbled and excited to pursue the holy call that God has for my life which brings me much joy and purpose.”

Willis worked his way into a starting role in his rookie season with the Colts. He played in 39 career games, making 33 starts. He battled injuries during his three years in the NFL, including a concussion, broken ribs and calf and groin injuries.

“Khari’s character, leadership, and professionalism will be missed in our locker room, as will his play on Sundays,” said Colts head coach Frank Reich. “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.”

Did Indianapolis Plan Ahead?

It’s not really clear if the Colts were aware of the decision Khari Willis was making before it became official, but it seems the organization might’ve had a hunch. Through free agency and the draft, Indianapolis is bringing in three big names to its secondary.

Veterans Rodney McLeod and Armani Watts were added through free agency. The Colts also pulled the trigger on former Maryland safety Nick Cross in the 2022 NFL Draft. The former Terrapin was a third-round selection.

Both McLeod and Watts inked one-year deals with the Colts. Cross will be on a four-year rookie contract with the organization.

Indianapolis will be looking to fill some pretty big shoes with Willis out the door. During his three-year career with the Colts, Willis totaled 219 tackles, four interceptions and a defensive touchdown.

The Colts are hoping to return to the playoffs in 2022 after dealing with heartbreak last season. Following a huge win over Arizona on Christmas Day, Indianapolis needed just one win in its final two games to secure a postseason bid. Opportunities were squandered in the final two weeks. Indianapolis dropped games to Las Vegas and Jacksonville to finish with a 9-8 record.