- 16:46 ET, Mar 19 2022
- Updated: 16:46 ET, Mar 19 2022
VETERAN NFL and ESPN reporter John Clayton, who appeared in a famed SportsCenter commercial, has passed away at 67.
Clayton’s close friend Jeff Muzzy announced the news on Twitter on March 18, 2022, in an emotional statement.
It read: “I’m posting a notice of personal friend and hall of fame broadcaster John Clayton passing today at 3pm.”
The platform was soon flooded with tributes to the “beloved” journalist, who died after a brief illness at 67. His cause of death has not yet been confirmed.
The Seattle Seahawks tweeted that the team was “heartbroken” to hear of Clayton’s death in a lengthy statement posted to Twitter.
Read our John Clayton live blog for the latest updates.
What commercial did John Clayton star in?
Clayton starred in a 2012 ad that some have called “the greatest This Is SportsCenter commercial of all time.”
“It’s hard to find an expert more dedicated than John Clayton,” says Neil Everett, a SportsCenter anchor, at the start of the commercial.
After showing a clip of Clayton on-air, the cameras cut and the late sports analyst is seen behind closed doors.
Viewers find he’s reporting live from his bedroom, and Clayton reveals underneath his fake suit and tie is a Slayer cut-off. He turns up loud rock music as he gets comfortable.
“Hey Ma, I’m done with my segment,” Clayton shouts into the other room, jumping onto his bed with a box of Chinese takeout.
Gary Belsky remembers John Clayton’s NYC visits
Gary Belsky, former editor in chief of ESPN The Magazine, shared memories of John Clayton to his Facebook page.
“His visits to New york City were something we looked forward to,” Belsky wrote of Clayton.
“He loved funk music and was a font of NFL insights. It was said, and I overheard phone conversations that supported the rumors, that NFL GMs called him for help in understanding the salary cap.”
Tacoma News Tribune tribute, continued
Clayton’s biggest strength as a reporter was his wide network of sources, Zeeck told the Tribune.
“Impeccable, in every nook and cranny of the NFL. His ability to engender trust and respect was unmatched,” Zeeck said.
“That’s what got him the great stories, ahead of everybody else.
“Those phone calls, regularly, from the top coaches and general managers in the league really impressed me,” Zeeck continued.
“That just doesn’t happen with any but the very best reporters in any subject.”
Tacoma News Tribune colleagues’ tribute
In a tribute to Clayton, his former employer, the Tacoma News Tribune, shared stories from writers and editors who worked with Clayton in the 1990s.
Editor David Zeeck remembered learning about Clayton’s astute reporting from the other staff who revered him.
“In my first few days, I heard the operator call John to tell him to pick up a line because Tom Landry (retired from the Cowboys) was on the phone. Or Bill Parcells, then coach of the Patriots,” Zeeck said.
“Tom Flores called me to complain that John reported a player signing — accurately — before his own player-personnel people confirmed it to the coach.”
NFL Commissioner releases statement
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement following John Clayton’s death.
“John Clayton, one of the first ‘Insiders,’ helped bring fans closer to the game they loved,” Goodell wrote.
“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,” the statement concluded.
When is John Clayton Day?
In 2018, John Clayton’s hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania named March 18 “John Clayton Day.”
He commemorated the special day on Twitter, sharing a photo of himself with the proclamation.
“Thank you Braddock for making me what I am,” Clayton wrote.
Quite a day. My hometown of Braddock, Pa., named Sunday as John Clayton Day. About 30 people I grew up with came to see me. I am so blessed and honored. Thank you Braddock for making me what I am. pic.twitter.com/fIRctBVnHt
— John Clayton (@JohnClaytonNFL) March 18, 2018
John Clayton’s touching goodbye to ESPN
When John Clayton left ESPN in 2017, he posted a heartfelt tweet about the network – but he made it clear that as much as he enjoyed sports, he had one true love.
“I can honestly say that my relationship with ESPN was the second best in my life,” Clayton wrote.
“My marriage to my wife Pat is obviously No. 1.”
I can honestly say that my relationship with ESPN was the second best in my life. My marriage to my wife Pat is obviously No. 1.
— John Clayton (@JohnClaytonNFL) May 31, 2017
Washington Post remembers contributor Clayton
In a Washington Post obituary, the publication remembered Clayton, who began writing for the Post in 2018.
During his time there, Clayton offered “his insights and analysis on the games, players and power brokers of the country’s most popular sport.”
Clayton was well-known across platforms
Clayton joined ESPN in 1995 as a reporter. He later hosted a radio show with former NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury.
In 2017, Clayton was reportedly let go from ESPN.
He was a frequent contributor to 104.3 The Fan in Denver and a weekly guest to The Mightier 1090AM in San Diego, and was known for calling in to sports radio programs nationwide.
Seattle Sports radio holds tribute to Clayton
Seattle Sports 710 AM, where John Clayton was a writer and host, is holding a special tribute to “The Professor” on Saturday morning.
The tribute show features many of Clayton’s friends and colleagues.
Reporter shares story about John Clayton
On Twitter, Green Bay Press-Gazette writer Ryan Wood shared a story about meeting John Clayton.
“When I was an intern at The Charlotte Observer in 2010, dreaming of working an NFL beat, I spent an OTA practice on the sideline of the Carolina Panthers,” Wood wrote.
“On this day, I was lucky enough to stand next to John Clayton. Of course, I knew who John Clayton was. Respected him. Even revered him. He embodied all the things I hoped to be as an NFL reporter.
“I was nervous, but I had to introduce myself. I had no expectation he’d give me the time of day. Instead, he treated a college intern like a colleague. He was generous with advice, sharing tips on how to grow as a reporter, how to progress in this business.
“Four years later in Seattle, before my first game covering the Packers, I saw a familiar face walking down press row. It was John Clayton shaking hands with fellow reporters before kickoff. When he got to me, I told him about that Panthers practice. He smiled, congratulated me.”
Clayton was ‘with loved ones’
Chris Mortensen said that Clayton’s wife, Pat, and sister, Amy, were with him when he died.
What is John Clayton’s cause of death?
A cause of death has not yet been released for the late reporter, but family and friends report he died after “a brief illness.”
Friends call Clayton ‘walking encyclopedia’
“John Clayton was a walking encyclopedia on football and what was happening in the NFL (THE PROFESSOR),” wrote former football coach Wade Phillips.
“Most of all, he was a great friend. Loved Clayton and miss him.”
John Clayton was a walking encyclopedia on football and what was happening in the NFL( THE PROFESSOR) .Most of all ,he was a great friend .Loved Clayton and miss him. RIP
— Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) March 19, 2022
Friends remember Clayton’s love for wife
One of the most consistent threads in tributes to John Clayton has been stories about his love for his wife Pat.
“Condolences to John Clayton’s wife Pat,” wrote The Arizona Republic reporter Kent Somers. “He adored her.”
And ESPN’s Dianna Russini shared that every Friday, Clayton took his wife out on a date.
Reading all these beautiful tributes to the great John Clayton.
He used to hop on SportsCenter on Fridays nights and while he would be getting set up I’d always ask “big plans tonight John?”
He always said the same thing “Taking my bride on a our Friday date.”
It was so sweet.
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 19, 2022
Clayton was ‘the kindest person’
Joy Taylor remembered John Clayton’s kindness to her during her first NFL sideline job.
“He found me, gave me advice, gave me some information for the broadcast and as always, wanted to talk about Braddock, PA,” the sports reporter wrote.
“Thank you for everything John, I am so grateful for your friendship.”
John Clayton was the kindest person. This was my first sideline job for the NFL. He found me, gave me advice, gave me some information for the broadcast and as always, wanted to talk about Braddock, PA. Thank you for everything John, I am so grateful for your friendship. RIP ♥️ pic.twitter.com/i28uOSexT0
— Joy Taylor (@JoyTaylorTalks) March 19, 2022
Where did John Clayton pass away?
According to American journalist Chris Mortensen, John Clayton passed away at a Seattle area hospital.
Mortensen said: “His wife Pat and sister Amy were at his side and communicated earlier he passed peacefully after a brief illness.
“We loved John. We are mourning his loss. Pat has asked the @Seahawks to release further information.”
John Clayton passed away today at a Seattle area hospital. His wife Pat and sister Amy were at his side and communicated earlier he passed peacefully after a brief illness.
We loved John. We are mourning his loss.
Pat has asked the @Seahawks to release further information.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 19, 2022
ESPN Sports Reporter remembers ‘legend’ John Clayton
ESPN Sports Reporter Jeff Darlington took to Twitter on Friday night to mourn the loss of a “legend.”
He wrote: “When I first met John Clayton, I was so nervous to meet a legend.
“After all, he helped carve the path for guys like me — sportswriters who aspired to work at ESPN.
“I never imagined he would become a great friend. I’m so sad. But so very fortunate to have known such a kind soul.”
When I first met John Clayton, I was so nervous to meet a legend. After all, he helped carve the path for guys like me — sportswriters who aspired to work at ESPN.
I never imagined he would become a great friend. I’m so sad. But so very fortunate to have known such a kind soul. pic.twitter.com/T0apxRkICJ
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) March 19, 2022
John Clayton’s viral commercial
John Clayton was known to a wider audience for a viral commercial that depicted him filming an ESPN spot remotely – from what was then revealed to be a typical teenage bedroom.
The camera panned away as Clayton ripped off his business clothes and revealed a Slayer t-shirt and long, unkempt hair.
As he flopped onto his bed with a box of takeout, the words “This is SportsCenter” appeared on the screen.
Who was John Clayton?
John Clayton was a former NFL reporter and ESPN writer.
He passed away on Friday at the age of 67
Clayton’s friend, Jeff Muzzy , took to Twitter to reveal the news.
“I’m posting a notice of personal friend and hall of fame broadcaster John Clayton passing today at 3pm,” Muzzy wrote.
‘Humble, selfless, gem of a guy’
Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Brandt expressed his sadness after hearing news ofJohn Clayton’s passing.
He tweeted: “When I joined ESPN he shepherded me through all the shows, made sure I knew my way around.
“Liked and respected not only by all in media but by all NFL team coaches and executives.
“Humble, selfless, gem of a guy. What a loss.”
Saddened to hear of the passing of John Clayton.
When I joined ESPN he shepherded me through all the shows, made sure I knew my way around.
Liked and respected not only by all in media but by all NFL team coaches and executives.
Humble, selfless, gem of a guy. What a loss. pic.twitter.com/WTltyCne9K
— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) March 19, 2022
‘Rest In Peace, The Professor’
The Seattle Seahawks shared this tribute post on Twitter.
It read: “The Seahawks are heartbroken to learn of the passing of John Clayton after a battle with a brief illness at the age of 67.”
‘There will never be another John Clayton’
Brady Henderson, a Seattle Seahawk reporter for ESPN, remembered John Clayton for knowing “things before most people in the building did.”
He explained: “I don’t know how he made time to sleep, let alone be as devoted of a husband as he was.
“I also got a kick out of his quirks, like his penchant for prefacing things with ‘let’s put it this way.’
“Well, let’s put it this way: there will never be another John Clayton. RIP, Professor.”
I don’t know how he made time to sleep, let alone be as devoted of a husband as he was. I also got a kick out of his quirks, like his penchant for prefacing things with “let’s put it this way.” Well, let’s put it this way: there will never be another John Clayton. RIP, Professor.
— Brady Henderson (@BradyHenderson) March 19, 2022
‘We will miss him dearly’
ESPN remembered John Clayton as being “one of our NFL insiders who expertly covered the league for more than 20 years at ESPN.”
“We all learned something from ‘The Professor’ over the years and we will miss him dearly,” the network wrote in a tribute tweet.
John Clayton, one of our NFL insiders who expertly covered the league for more than 20 years at ESPN, died Friday at 67 after a brief illness.
We all learned something from “The Professor” over the years and we will miss him dearly. pic.twitter.com/bfiPCPUYZo
— ESPN (@espn) March 19, 2022
Senior ESPN writer mourns John Clayton
“John Clayton, a first-class NFL insider and our beloved longtime ESPN colleague, died today,” wrote senior ESPN writer Don Van Natta Jr. on Twitter.
“He also starred in the greatest This Is SportsCenter commercial of all time.”