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Have other NFL players like Khari Willis retired for religious reasons?

Over the years, we’ve seen NFL players retiring after only 3 seasons to pursue different things, like religious calling, with the latest being Khari Willis.

Khari Willis dijo adiós a la NFL para dedicarse a la religión.
Andy Lyons

Apart from injuries and possibly faith, some NFL players have chosen to retire as a way of escaping unsuitable contracts. For the longest time, many believed this was the reason behind Barry Sanders’ retirement, who was averaging around 1,500 rushing yards a season with the Lions, and was about to break the all-time rushing record set by Walter Payton. Sanders, however, clarified years later that he just couldn’t handle the team’s mismanagement.

Indianapolis Colts safety Khari Willis has a different reason for retiring than Sanders though. The 26-year-old announced on Wednesday in an Instagram post, that his decision to retire this early, only after three seasons in the league, is because of a religious calling.

Khari Willis retiring from the NFL for a life as a religious leader

“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. “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.”

Over his three seasons in the NFL, Willis started at least 11 games for Indianapolis after being selected in the fourth round of the 2019 draft out of Michigan State. The safety tallied 219 combined tackles, 3.5 sacks and four interceptions in 39 games during his short career.

Colts head coach Frank Reich spoke highly of Willis for his “character, leadership and professionalism” during his time with Indianapolis.”

NFL players who have retired in less than four seasons

Willis is not the only NFL player who has retired from the NFL in less than four seasons.

Former San Francisco 49ers running back Glen Coffee left the league at the age of 23 following his rookie year for the same reasons. He felt that God had other plans for him excluding football.

And while former 49ers linebacker Chris Borland was believed to have retired at the age of 24 in 2015 due to religious reasons as well, he later cited that he had concerns over concussions and head trauma.

More recently, Detroit Lions DT John Penisini retired this month after just two NFL seasons. The 25-year-old did not give a reason for his retirement, but he did have a health scare a year ago involving a shoulder injury.


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