The NFL has seen a growing trend of players retiring at a young age, typically over health reasons or to pursue opportunities to make a lot of money outside the game.
Indianapolis Colts starting safety Khari Willis isn’t retiring out of fear, but instead to focus on others, in faith.
Willis announced that he is walking away from the NFL and millions of dollars in earnings to devote the rest of his life “to the further advancement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
His decision shows he is seeking first the Kindom of God and pursuing his calling:
“for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? But how are they to preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who [bring good news of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15)
Only 26, Khair was a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and was in the fourth and final season of his rookie contract with the Colts when he revealed that he is giving it all up for Jesus.
“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 announced in a statement on Instagram Thursday.
“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.”
“My faith to me is a personal journey. Along this road of faith, I’ve had a lot of ups, and truthfully, I’ve had some downs as well. But it’s something that if I stick to, I notice that I’ll become better and better and better at whatever it is I’m doing,” Willis told reporters at a press conference in 2018.
For his first three seasons with the team, Willis earned approximately $3 million and was expected to have his most lucrative season in 2022 with a base salary of $2.54 million, The Indy Star reported.
Willis was also a season away from free agency, which could have landed him a significantly larger second contract.
The father of twin boys, he has previously spoken about how important his faith is to him.
He shared that when his twin sons were hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care unit for the entire duration of his rookie season, he received much support from his family and church community in the aftermath of his twins’ premature birth. The former Michigan State University standout never publicly indicated which church he attends.
“Faith to me is important. Believing in something you can’t see, especially in this dark world, something that you can’t always see with your eyes and especially when you may not always want to believe or want to do the right thing.”
Colts coach Frank Reich says he has great “respect” and “admiration” for his former player and his life-altering career change.
“We’re thankful and appreciative of Khari’s contributions to the Colts both on and off the field over the last three seasons,” 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.”
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