John Clayton Death: The NFL Reporter Who Defined Excellence

John Clayton, esteemed NFL reporter renowned for his deep insights, passed away on Friday, March 18, 2022, at 67. He succumbed to a brief illness in a Seattle-area hospital, with his wife Pat and sister Amy by his side.

Clayton, affectionately dubbed “The Professor” for his vast football knowledge, enjoyed a storied tenure of over 20 years at ESPN, captivating millions of football enthusiasts.

Beyond ESPN, he contributed to local newspapers covering the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks while hosting a radio show on Seattle Sports. In this tribute, we honor Clayton’s illustrious career and lasting impact, while sharing sentiments from his peers, friends, and admirers.

A Lifelong Devotion to Football

Clayton’s journey began in Braddock, Pennsylvania, in 1954, where his love for football ignited. At the tender age of 13, he commenced his reporting career, covering the Steelers for a local publication, a passion he sustained through his tenure at Duquesne University.

Graduating in 1976, Clayton embarked on a remarkable 23-year stint at The Pittsburgh Press, with contributions to The Tacoma Tribune highlighting his NFL expertise.

Upon joining ESPN in 1995, Clayton swiftly ascended as a leading NFL insider. His presence graced various ESPN platforms, including SportsCenter, NFL Live, and NFL PrimeTime, alongside written contributions to and ESPN The Magazine.

Renowned for his unmatched sources, meticulous analysis, and a touch of humor, Clayton’s impact reverberated, epitomized by his iconic SportsCenter commercial revealing his secret allegiance to Slayer.

A Hall of Fame Legacy and Mentorship

Clayton’s unparalleled professionalism garnered a slew of accolades. Named Sports Media Association’s Sports Writer of the Year in 2007, he earned induction into the writers’ wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

His crowning achievement came with the receipt of the Dick McCann Award in 2016, the pinnacle of recognition for NFL journalists. Serving on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, Clayton’s influence extended to the Pro Football Reference website.

Yet, beyond his journalistic prowess, Clayton’s legacy as a mentor and confidant flourished. Renowned for his generosity and guidance, he left an indelible mark on colleagues, players, coaches, executives, and fans alike. Devoted to his wife Pat, whom he married in 1986, and sister Amy, Clayton’s impact transcended the gridiron.

A Legacy Eternalized

Clayton’s passing elicited an overwhelming wave of tributes from the NFL community and beyond. Former ESPN colleagues such as Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter, Trey Wingo, and Suzy Kolber poured out memories and condolences on social media.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell lauded Clayton for bridging fans closer to the game they adored. The Seahawks and the Steelers paid homage with a moment of silence, joined by countless media members, players, and fans in acknowledging Clayton’s profound contributions.

In Clayton’s work, impact, and spirit, his legacy endures. A legend, a professor, a gentleman—John Clayton was among the very best, and his absence leaves a void impossible to fill. Rest in peace, John Clayton.

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