John Clayton, Longtime ESPN Reporter, Dead at 67

John Clayton

John Clayton, a longtime ESPN NFL reporter known to his colleagues as "The Professor" for his deep knowledge of the game, has died. He was 67.

Clayton's friend and colleague Chris Mortensen announced the news Friday night, saying the respected sports journalist died Friday at a Seattle area hospital. He added, "His wife Pat and sister Amy were at his side and communicated earlier he passed away peacefully after a brief illness." Mortensen, a respected NFL insider himself at ESPN, said Clayton's wife asked the Seattle Seahawks to release further information. Clayton covered the Seahawks for years, and most recently covered Russell Wilson's trade to the Denver Broncos.

Wilson tweeted, "We will all miss your words and brilliance."


The Seahawks released a statement confirming Clayton's passing. The team noted Clayton's storied career that spanned more than four decades covering the NFL. He covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL for the Pittsburgh Press in the 1970s as a teenager. He'd go on to cover the Seahawks for the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune before ESPN hired him as an NFL insider in 1995.

Most recently, Clayton was the host of The John Clayton Weekends show on Seattle Sports 710 radio, and he spent five seasons as a sideline reporter for the Seattle Seahawks Radio Network. Clayton won the prestigious Dick McCann Award in 2007, which is bestowed annually by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) "for long and distinguished reporting on professional football." Clayton was also the 19th president of the PFWA and a longtime member of the Board of Selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame also released a statement on Instagram saying in part, "His impact and contribution to the game of football will be missed."

Seth Markman, vice president and executive producer at ESPN, recalled in an ESPN story Clayton's relentlessness and kindness in his more than 20-plus years at the network.

"John was a pioneer as an NFL insider but also one of the kindest men you could ever work with,'' he said. "He literally never said no to a show that asked him to come on -- from 6 a.m. to midnight, if you asked for the Professor, he was there for you. I'll also personally remember how he loved and cared for his beloved wife Pat as she has battled multiple sclerosis. We will all miss John greatly.''

Clayton's popularity among fans reached greater heights when he appeared in ESPN's iconic "This is SportsCenter" commercials that quickly went viral with millions of views. In the commercial, Clayton does a guest spot on SportsCenter in suit and tie. But, when the segment's over, he rips off the outfit to reveal a Slayer T-shirt. He also unraveled a long pony tail before jumping into his bed and shouting, "Hey ma, I'm done with my segment" as he digs into a box of Chinese food while blasting Slayer in the background.

Slayer guitarist Kerry King reacted to the commercial after it first aired telling Artisan News, "It's awesome!"

Clayton is survived by his wife, Pat, and sister, Amy.


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