Indianapolis Colts safety Khari Willis (37), shown Oct. 24, 2021, ends his NFL career with 219 total tackles, four interceptions and 3.5 sacks over 39 games. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
June 15 (UPI) -- Indianapolis Colts starting safety Khari Willis announced Wednesday that he is retiring from the NFL to pursue a future in ministry.
Willis, 26, played just three seasons in the NFL -- all with the Colts -- after entering the league as a fourth-round draft pick in 2019.
"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 on Instagram. "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 became the Colts' starting strong safety midway through his rookie campaign in 2019. He notched 71 total tackles and one pass breakup over 14 games that season.
He ends his NFL career with 219 tackles, four interceptions, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and 11 passes defensed.
"We're thankful and appreciative of Khari's contributions to the Colts both on and off the field over the last three seasons," Colts head coach Frank Reich said in a statement. "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 had already addressed the safety position earlier this off-season and now may need additional help after Willis' surprise retirement.
Indianapolis signed veteran defensive back Rodney McLeod in free agency and selected Maryland's Nick Cross with the No. 96 overall pick in April's draft. McLeod likely has a strong chance to start at Willis' spot, though Cross is expected to be the long-term option.