Colts Starting Safety Khari Willis Retires at the Age of 26

Khari Willis (37) chasing Raiders' tight end Foster Moreau
Khari Willis (37) chasing Raiders' tight end Foster Moreau. Photo by John Mersits/CSM/Shutterstock (10429884cv)

The Indianapolis Colts’ starting safety Khari Willis is retiring from the NFL after just three seasons in the league. Willis, who turned 26 in May, explained his surprising decision in a statement posted on social media.

“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,” said Willis. ” … Thank you all for your support over the years.”

Khari Willis entered the league in 2019 as the Colts’ fourth-round selection. The Michigan State product became the team’s starting strong safety midway through his rookie year and never looked back. Willis has 219 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 11 pass deflections, four interceptions, and one defensive touchdown as a pro.

The loss of Willis to retirement is expected to sting the Colts, especially considering his tackling prowess and ability to play both safety positions. His impact was especially felt in stopping the run, where Indianapolis’ defense was one of the best units in the league.

The obvious candidate to step in for Willis is veteran Rodney McLeod, who joined the Colts in free agency. McLeod has been playing as a strong safety for the better part of his 10 years in the NFL and is a dependable tackler. Rookie Nick Cross, who was selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, should get some reps as well.

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