Longtime ESPN NFL reporter John Clayton dies at 67
John Clayton, a fixture on ESPN's "SportsCenter" for years, has died, a collection of his colleagues confirmed Friday. He was 67.
Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was hard to turn on SportsCenter or any of ESPN's NFL shows without seeing Clayton and his familiar background pop up to discuss the biggest football story of the day. He started at the network in 1995 after a long career as a newspaper writer covering the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, and stayed there until he was let go in 2017.
Clayton was also a regular presence on radio in Seattle and around the country, hosting The John Clayton Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM until his death.
John Clayton, a first-class NFL insider and our beloved longtime ESPN colleague, died today.
He also starred in the greatest This Is SportsCenter commercial of all time.
— Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) March 19, 2022
My friend of 22 years John Clayton died. He was one of those colleagues who was not only always eager to help you, but went above and beyond to help. He took his work seriously, with all his files and spreadsheets, but not himself. RIP to a gentleman and Hall of Famer.
— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) March 19, 2022
I'm posting a notice of personal friend and hall of fame broadcaster John Clayton @JohnClaytonNFL passing today at 3pm. Condolences to Pat and family. pic.twitter.com/JjU8sAfE1P
— Jeff Muzzy (@jeffmu) March 19, 2022
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement Saturday, calling Clayton "a wonderful person."
"John Clayton, one of the first 'Insiders,' helped bring fans closer to the game they loved. For five decades, he covered the league with endless energy and professionalism. He earned my tremendous respect and admiration as a journalist but more importantly as a wonderful person, particularly as it relates to the love, care, and devotion to his wife Pat. We will miss John and send our deepest condolences to Pat and his sister Amy."
It didn't take long for Clayton to establish his bona fides in the industry. While covering the Steelers as a fill-in reporter for the Pittsburgh Press in 1978, he uncovered a rules violation concerning shoulder pads that would eventually cost the Steelers a draft pick. Even after being subjected to the vitriol of Steelers head coach Chuck Noll and fans, he worked his way up to beat writer.
An exemplary career would follow across print, television and radio, eventually earning him the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Dick McCann Memorial Award in 2007.
Both teams Clayton covered as a beat writer released statements in tribute to the reporter.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 19, 2022
Rest In Peace, The Professor. pic.twitter.com/xFGdTYstnT
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) March 19, 2022
Clayton's reliability was reflected in many ways, perhaps most of all in how it was the joke of his famous "This is SportsCenter" commercial. His quality as a person was reflected in the outpouring of tributes from his former ESPN colleagues as soon as news of his death hit:
This was tough to read. There were only a few times during my time at ESPN that I’ve been starstruck but one of them was when John called me for the first time to talk about the Cardinals. That friendship continued even after he left the network. He was one of the best. RIP. https://t.co/SuvmsVHvYD
— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) March 19, 2022
I’m in shock after hearing about John Clayton. Have so many (unintentionally) hysterical JC stories. Truly one of a kind. Left me hundreds of voicemails over the years. Always identified himself, using his full name, and left his number — long after caller ID made that moot. 😢
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) March 19, 2022
Like a lot of Seattle sports fans, I looked up to John; I’ll never forget when he emerged from Hall of Fame voting to tell me, excitedly, that Kenny Easley got in. He loved Seahawks football and we loved him for it. RIP to a kind, thoughtful man. https://t.co/HLUjXurkir
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) March 19, 2022
Forever indebted to @JohnClaytonNFL for his belief in me and opening so many doors. He stuck his hand out and introduced himself at my first NFL combine in 2014. I was by myself, and an absolute NOBODY and he treated me like SOMEBODY. I told myself, ‘I want to be like that.’
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) March 19, 2022
I did my very first draft for ESPN on #ESPNRadio in 2014 in NYC with John Clayton, Mark Schlereth, and Dari Nowkhah. John could not have been nicer, more professional,more helpful to me. And we had never even met before that event. Says a lot about him. Says everything. #RIP JC
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) March 19, 2022
This is shocking and heartbreaking. A great friend, mentor and teammate for many years. His devotion to his craft was only surpassed by that which he held for Pat. A giant in our business. Rest easy, JC. https://t.co/JYkzDdZNkr
— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) March 19, 2022
This is crushing. John was a legend and always, always helpful to me. We’d chat every so often. Always enjoyed. Damn. https://t.co/0ZbWCUsFxJ
— John Keim (@john_keim) March 19, 2022
So sad to hear about the passing of John Clayton. I grew up learning about football from John as a fan and it was a thrill to be on his radio show. What a nice man. RIP to a legend.
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) March 19, 2022
RIP John Clayton
Absolute legend. pic.twitter.com/fxrHHSk4gH
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) March 19, 2022