Entertainment Sports 26-Year-Old NFL Player Khari Willis Abruptly Retires to Pursue Career in Ministry: 'Humbled' “I am both humbled and excited to pursue the holy call that God has for my life which brings me much joy and purpose,” the NFL safety said By Stephanie Wenger Stephanie Wenger Instagram Twitter Stephanie Wenger is a TV Writer/Reporter at PEOPLE. She joined the brand in 2021 as digital news writer, spanning across the site's verticals. She previously contributed to E! Online, HollywoodLife, Discover Los Angeles, Oscar.com and Hollywood.com. She appeared on air at AfterBuzz TV. She began her journalism career as an intern at Good Morning America and Access Hollywood. She graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor's in communications and received a Master's in journalism from the University of Southern California. People Editorial Guidelines Published on June 16, 2022 08:21 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: MSA/Icon Sportswire via Getty Indianapolis Colts safety Khari Willis said he is retiring from the NFL to pursue a career in ministry. In a post to Instagram on Wednesday, the 26-year-old said he is leaving the league after "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," said Willis, who played three seasons in the NFL. "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." The Michigan native continued, "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 — drafted as a fourth-round pick from Michigan State in 2019 — also thanked the Colts for "granting me the opportunity to compete in the National Football League the past three years." Pittsburgh Steelers' Stephon Tuitt Announces Retirement at 29: 'It Was an Honor' "I've built lifelong relationships with numerous teammates, coaches and support staff that have impacted me greatly," he said. "The lessons that I've learned in this phase of my life will be valuable for me in my next chapter." Following the retirement news, Colts head coach Frank Reich thanked Willis in a statement released by the team. "We're thankful and appreciative of Khari's contributions to the Colts both on and off the field over the last three seasons," Reich shared. "Khari's character, leadership, and professionalism will be missed in our locker room as will his play on Sundays." Aaron Rodgers Addresses Retirement, Says He 'Can Definitely See the End Coming' He added, "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." Colts owner Jim Irsay supported Willis in a tweet, writing, "Thank you, Khari." "It has been an honor, and I wish you great things to come," he said. Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly newsletter to get the biggest news of the week delivered to your inbox every Friday. Tom Brady Says He Felt 'Pressure' to Un-Retire from NFL Due to Start of 2022 Free Agency In his rookie season, Willis appeared in all 14 games, including nine starts. He also started in all 14 games he played in 2020. In his final NFL season, he played in 11 games with two interceptions and 63 tackles. He leaves the NFL having recorded 219 tackles and four interceptions. The Colts will face the Houston Texans in their regular-season opener on September 11.