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

Indianapolis Colts Safety Khari Willis (37) looks on in game action during a NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals on October 18, 2020, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN.
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."

"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."

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.

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.

Related Articles