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Colts Prospect Interview: Michigan State Safety Khari Willis

Rutgers v Michigan State Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images



5’10” 213 pounds


40 Time: 4.56 / 10-yard split: 1.59 / Bench Reps: 22 Reps / Vertical Jump: 34.5 inches / Broad Jump: 118 inches

Career Stats:

189 total tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, 3 interceptions, 13 pass deflections and 2 forced fumbles in his career.

Round Projection:

Rounds 3-4

Fit with the Colts:

The Colts need a new starting strong safety on their defense. Clayton Geathers and Matthias Farley were both brought back on one year deals but both have had their injury issues in the past. Willis fits the Colts both in the locker room and on the field. On the field, he is an excellent tackler and very consistent in run defense. Off the field, he was one of the leaders for Michigan State and a very active part in the community. Overall, he is an excellent fit for what the Colts look for in their players.

Film Room

Tackling and overall consistency are big staples of Willis' game. He is reliable on the back end and comes up to make plays in run defense.

Solid in coverage as well. He tracks passes with ease and knows how to get physical with tight ends in deep coverage.

To know what kind of person he is off of the field as well, watch this video. Really great guy who would mesh well in the Colts’ locker room.


ZH: Let’s start with your off the field accomplishments first. You are a big face in the community and are always giving back. Why are you so active in the community?

KW: A couple factors. One, I think my dad because he was always a big figure in our community growing up. He set an example for me there if I’m able to have some success and he always made it a point to me to give back. As I’ve grown up and learned things and seen whats going on, giving back was just something that wouldn’t require much effort as it is something that I’ve always wanted to do which is just help people.

ZH: You delivered a speech this past year at the Big Ten Kick off Luncheon that went viral and received a lot of praise. How was that whole experience for you?

KW: Yeah that was good and I think it was more than I expected. My coach told me that a lot of people saw it and say it’s a big deal. I think it really helped get who I am out there to everybody and I think that is helping me now. I feel like I set the bar high for myself in that Big Ten media speech and to see it go viral the way that it did is really a blessing.

ZH: You were also a Team Captain this past season. How did it feel to receive that honor?

KW: I think that is probably the highest honor I’ve had so far in my career to be captain. A lot of great players are on that team and to have them look to me and vote for me unanimously just speaks to them and how they respect me. I think that has to be my biggest accomplishment thus far.

ZH: You were a star running back in high school before transitioning to safety at Michigan State. What was that transition like for you?

KW: It was a lot different. I think it was something I embraced, though, and something I knew I was going to have to do coming in. It took me a little bit to adjust and actually get good at it but once I feel like I learned the game a little more, I understood what was needed from me. I feel like after that I was able to settle in and I had a very good career at Michigan State.

ZH: You received an invite to the Senior Bowl after an excellent career. How was that whole experience for you?

KW: It was a good experience being able to compete with the best players across the country in an All Star game like that from all leagues. It was a great platform for me as a football player and I think I took care of business down there on the field. I wanted to really show that what I put on film during my Senior year was the same thing here at the Senior Bowl and I feel like I did that all week.

ZH: Going to your film, you are an excellent tackler and run defender. Do you think that is a major aspect of playing the safety position?

KW: It is huge especially in today’s game with all of the explosive players. You gotta be able to get guys to the ground to keep teams behind the sticks and that is the last line of defense. If you don’t make the tackle, more often than not it is going to be a big play. I feel like that is something I was taught at Michigan State to do more so than interceptions which is get guys on the ground and get our defense off of the field. I think that is very important and where I will help a team as well.

ZH: A major part of playing safety in today’s NFL is the ability to match up with Tight Ends. Do you think you can match up well with the athletes that are at tight end nowadays?

KW: Yeah, I think I match up very well. My Senior year, I played nickel a lot and matched up with some of the best slots and tight ends in the country. I held my own and made a lot of plays in the nickel position, so I feel like that is something I wanted to work on for the next level all year and give credit to my coaches for thinking I was ready for that. I know there are a lot better athletes at the next level but I know I’m ready for that.

ZH: A big part of being a rookie transitioning to the NFL is playing special teams. How comfortable would you be playing special teams early in the NFL?

KW: I’d be very very comfortable with it. I feel like that is something that I kind of expect and I know it is something I’ll have to do not just as a rookie but throughout my career. It is something I look forward to. It was something I did a lot at Michigan State and I made a lot of plays there so I’m looking forward to it. It is all football and it’s all another part of the game.

ZH: What would you say is the most important trait or quality that a safety can have?

KW: I would say football IQ or smarts. I think you have to know exactly what is front of you, you have to know when to come up and help, the down and distance. Football IQ and studying the other team just makes a safety play a lot faster and makes them able to make more plays when they have that IQ.

ZH: Who in the NFL do you model your game after/compare yourself to?

KW: There’s a lot of guys I like. Some of the guys I like the most are Earl Thomas— now he’s with the Ravens— I watch DJ Swearinger, Tyrann Mathieu... A lot of the guys who aren’t 6’3” (laughs). I watch how they fly around and how they play to better my game.

ZH: The Colts need a reliable safety on the back end to pair with Malik Hooker. Do you think that your skill set would pair well with his?

KW: I think one thing he does is that he plays hard. I do the same thing man, I play hard. He flies around and he makes plays and I think that I can come up in the box and make plays to let him roam around on the backend and do what he does best. I feel like their scheme fits the style of play that I’m comfortable playing so I think it would be a perfect match if they want to take that chance on me. We’ll see how it all shakes out but I’m looking forward to playing with guys like that at the next level.

ZH: Final question for you. On and off the field, what am I getting if I spend a draft pick on Khari Willis?

KW: A consistent playmaker. Somebody who is versatile and can step in the box or play on the back half or at the line of scrimmage. I can also blitz as well as just learn the defense and make everybody else around me better. I think that is what you are going to get, somebody who can not only make plays but make other people better by showing them what to do.